1995 to 1996

by Peter Hall and Colin Gale

1995-1996

Included are match summaries in honour of Mrs Joan Budge who rendered invaluable assistance to Ken Johnstone the Bath Club Press and Public relations Officer. She kept the match statistics and provided short, pithy comments on each match. The Pressmen depended on her

 

2/9/1995

v Garryowen, Home. Won 62-19. Team:- Callard (T, 7c & 1p), Lumsden (Tx2), de Glanville, Guscott (T), Sleightholme, Catt (T), Nicol (T), Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh (Tx2), Clarke (T).  Replacements – Johnson, McCarthy (blood rep. Dawe), Crompton  Ref – Chris Reeks. Ground – Good. Weather – Bright

What a great display of running, 15-man rugby to celebrate the start of the new professional (!) season. Poor Garryowen, who had had a great deal of injury trouble, including Paul Hogan wrecking his ankle outside the Hilton on the morning of the match, didn’t know what hit them as Bath piled on a display that was a pleasure to watch. Outstanding were Lumsden, Catt, de Glanville, the whole back row, but it is invidious to single out any one from this tremendous team display. Nice to see a first outing for Nicol who played well. Once tuned up to Bath’s speed, he should be formidable.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

AFTER 17 months waiting to make his Bath debut, Andy Nicol wasted no time getting on the scoresheet.

Just 11 minutes into the new rugby season, the 24-year-old Scottish international scrum-half collected an inside pass from Audley Lumsden to snatch the opening try.

His teammates eventually ran in another eight to rattle up 60 points against their Irish visitors. For Nicol, a management trainee with Mardons Packaging in Bristol, it was the perfect start.

“It has been 17 months since I first registered for Bath,” he said afterwards. “It’s been a long wait to play a first team game and it went well.

“No problems about the knee – obviously that was a hard game, not so much physical, but there was certainly a lot of running in it.

“It was valuable because next week there will be more of the same.”

Both coach Brian Ashton and first team manager John Hall intimated that, apart from the injured Simon Geoghegan, this was the strongest team currently available.

So Bath are likely to start the Courage League campaign with virtually the same line-up at West Hartlepool on Saturday.

Their opponents from Limerick defended doggedly throughout the first half and trailed only 20-13 at the interval.

Lumsden crossed in the corner after unrelenting pressure to score Bath’s second try and Ben Clarke strolled through almost unopposed from another “tap and run.”

But Garryowen kept in touch through debutant fly-half Barry Everet, who kicked two penalties and then pounced for a charge-down try from a loose kick by Jon Sleightholme.

Everett’s economical kicking style earned him two more penalties early in the second half as he accounted for all his side’s 19 points.

At this point, however, Bath were just getting into their stride, displaying a fluency and flair that was far beyond their opponents’ capabilities.

Steve Ojomoh took the direct route through a maul for the fourth try and Jeremy Guscott slipped over in the corner almost unnoticed ten minutes later.

Jon Callard started and finished a counter-attack for the next and Ojomoh grabbed his second from a slick set move.

Finger-tip passing at speed provided Lumsden with another and Mike Catt, with a superb sidestep and searing acceleration, brought up the 60 points. Callard’s seventh conversion brought his tally to 22 points.

SCORERS: 11 mins – Nicol try, 5-nil; 15 mins – Everet pen, 5-3; 16 mins – Callard pen, 8-3; 22 mins – Lumsden try, 13-3; 30 mins – Clarke try, Callard conv, 20-3; 32 mins – Everet pen, 20-6; 34 mins – Everet try & conv, 20-13 (H-T); 42 mins – Everet pen, 20-16; 44 mins – Ojomoh try, Callard conv, 27-16; 46 mins – Everet pen, 27-19; 54 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, 34-19; 64 mins – Callard try & conv, 41-19; 70 mins – Ojomoh try, Callard conv, 48-19; 74 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, 55-19; Catt try, Callard conv, 62-19.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

GARRYOWEN: Larkin; Niland, Wallace, Danaher, Brooks (rep Kilroy, 60 mins); Everet, McIvor; Spain, Linnane (rep Humphries, 51 mins), Ronan, Coughlan, O’Connor, Birmingham, O’Sullivan, O’Donoghue.

REFEREE: Chris Reeks (Somerset Soc).

 

9/9/1995

v West Hartlepool, Away. Won 20-15. Team:- Callard (5p), Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme (T), Catt, Nicol, Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Sanders, French, Mallett  Ref – B Campsall. Ground – Good. Weather – Fine

Not a very auspicious start to the league season. After a bright start, Bath lost their way in the second half allowing a sharp and determined West to give them a bit of a fright. Some pernickety refereeing did not help. My man of the match was Yates, who was outstanding both in tight and loose. Callard cool as usual and saved the day with some finely struck penalties. No one else particularly covered himself in glory and Catt was particularly disappointing.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

TWO unsuspecting Bath players will find themselves under the spotlight this week.

The club already video their matches but have now decided to target an extra camera on individuals – with one player being targeted in each half.

It shows no detail is being overlooked as Bath strive to regain the Courage League title from Leicester.

But on the evidence of this opening game, it could be an embarrassing exercise, particularly for anyone singled out for attention in the second half.

From looking a slick, confident outfit, Bath slipped into their old bad habits of giving away penalties, making unforced errors and continually arguing the toss with the referee.

At one point Yorkshire official Brian Campsall summoned new skipper Phil de Glanville to issue a warning about persistent infringement.

The Pilkington Cup holders were conceding a penalty every minute at this stage and being pinned back in the corners by the impressive boot of West’s full-back, Tim Stimpson.

Fortunately, the line-out went well and the Bath defence held its nerve as West searched in vain for a score in the last quarter.

De Glanville was clearly relieved to pick up two points, thanks to Jon Sleightholme’s first-half try and five penalties from Jon Callard, but his concern was just as obvious.

“I have to say I am disappointed with the second half,” said the international centre. “We tied up a little bit, went into our shells and didn’t help ourselves by giving away a lot of penalties.

“With Stimpson kicking superbly as he was, we found ourselves under pressure and couldn’t break out of that stranglehold.

“Every time we threatened to, we dropped the ball or were penalised. We’re our own worst enemies at times.”

Particularly worrying was Mike Catt’s tendency to lose his cool at the slightest physical contact, a weakness which could get him sent off one day.

The England full-back had one of his more forgettable games at fly-half, repeatedly missing touch and generally failing to provide the direction the side desperately needed.

One or two escaped the general criticism. Callard’s place-kicking was again virtually faultless while Ben Clarke repeatedly broke through the uncompromising West tackling.

But the outstanding figure in the pack was young loosehead, Kevin Yates, whose impressive all round contribution was very nearly rewarded with a score.

Instead, the only try went to left wing Sleightholme. He turned in one of his more convincing displays and left his marker for dead on a sprint to the corner after Jeremy Guscott had made the space.

But the home side refused to knuckle under, underlining the impression that Brierton Road will be an unforgiving destination for many sides again this season.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

BATH FORM: inconsistent

SCORERS: 5 mins – Callard pen, nil-3; 14 mins – Callard pen, nil-6; 19 mins – Stimpson pen, 3-6; 23 mins – Callard pen, 3-9; 34 mins – Sleightholme try, 3-14; 37 mins – Stimpson pen, 6-14; 40 mins – Callard pen, 6-17 (H-T); 43 mins – Stimpson pen, 9-17; 50 mins – Stimpson pen, 12-17; 58 mins – Hodder dropped goal, 15-17; 59 mins – Callard pen, 15-20.

WEST HARTLEPOOL: Stimpson; Evans, Elwine, Lee, Jones; Hodder, Cook; Lancaster, Herbert, Shelley, Dixon, Westgarth, Mitchell, Wainwright, Brown.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: Brian Campsall (Yorkshire).

CONDITIONS: weather – overcast; pitch – very good.

 

16/9/1995

v Gloucester, Home. Won 37.11 Team:- Callard (2c & 5p), Lumsden (T), de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme (T), Catt, Nicol (T), Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Peters, Ojomoh.  Replacements – Johnson, McCarthy, Crompton   Ref – S Piercy. Ground – Excellent. Weather – Overcast

Another pernickety referee nearly ruined this local derby as a spectacle. However, Bath, not quite firing on all cylinders but showing some great imagination and pace, soon put paid to a lacklustre Gloucester who really had nothing much to recommend them. Lumsden was again outstanding, as was Callard. Yates again prominent in the pack and Robinson his usual ubiquitous self.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

IF Bath ever wondered how they would cope after the retirement of ace try scorer Tony Swift, Audley Lumsden is providing some answers.

It was the 28-year-old schoolteacher’s clever change of pace which bamboozled his opponent and completed the rout of their West Country rivals.

It’s more than six years since a broken neck robbed Lumsden of a probable England cap and further leg injuries seemed to rob him of his appetite for the game.

But now he’s filling the right wing position so capably that team manager John Hall is tipping him for a belated international career.

“If Audley carries on playing like he is at the moment then I can see him with an England shirt on his back” said Hall. “He’s such a talented footballer.

“He’s wanted to play full-back in the past but we’ve had to put him on the wing. Now he is fully committed to the position, he’s come through and shown what a class player he is.”

Irish star Simon Geoghegan is expected to return to training this week after giving a troublesome groin strain a long rest following the World Cup.

But again, with Jon Sleightholme looking increasingly confident on the left wing, there is no need to push Geoghegan into a premature and perhaps damaging return.

Sleightholme also collected a try which demonstrated his new-found assurance. The England A cap fielded a loose kick on his 22 and, haring across field, found skipper Phil de Glanville with a long pass.

The centre booted the ball upfield and when it bounced unkindly for Tim Smith, the speedy Sleightholme appeared from nowhere to hack on and claim the score.

Pre-season talk of Jon Callard having to give way to Mike Catt to further the fly-half’s England career at full-back is looking more and more irrelevant these days.

It was Callard’s now-indispensable boot that pulled Bath ahead to 9-3 when referee Stuart Piercy was awarding penalties for a mystifying range of offences in the first half.

Andy Nicol then squeezed over for a try and another Callard penalty and a Catt dropped goal left the home side comfortably ahead at 20-3 at the interval.

Old Gloucester forwards like the famed `Digger’ Morris cringed as their front five was taken apart in the second half.

That was embarrassingly highlighted in the 65th minute when the Bath pack drove fully 45 metres from a line-out, more at a sprint than a canter.

After Sleightholme’s score Bath really let rip but the finishing is still not as sharp as it could be.

They were restricted to just one more score as intelligent work by Nicol and de Glanville on the left eventually provided the opportunity on the right for Lumsden.

Callard converted to bring his tally to 19 points and Holford’s 76th minute try was really no consolation to the Gloucester faithful.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING: three stars

BATH FORM: expansive

SCORERS: 4 mins – Callard pen, 3-nil; 6 mins – Lee Osborne pen, 3-3; 18 mins – Callard pen, 6-3; 31 mins – Callard pen, 9-3; 35 mins – Nicol try; 38 mins – Callard pen, 17-3; 40 mins – Catt dropped goal, 20-3 (H-T); 47 mins – Callard pen, 23-3; 52 mins – Martin Kimber dropped goal, 23-6; 60 mins – Sleightholme try, Callard conv, 30-6; 71 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, 37-6; 76 mins – Holford try, 37-11.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Peters, Ojomoh, Robinson.

GLOUCESTER: T Smith; Holford, Cummins (rep Beck, 32 mins), Roberts (rep Keyse, 73 mins), Osborne; Fenley, Kimber; Martin, Greening, Deacon, Cornwell, West, Glanville, Raymond, I Smith.

REFEREE: Stuart Piercy (Yorkshire).

CONDITIONS; weather – overcast, showers; pitch – well grassed.

 

23/9/1995

v Leicester, Away. Won 14-9. Team:- Callard (3p), Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo (T), Catt, Nicol, Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Sanders, French, Hilton  Ref – Tony Rowlands. Ground – Excellent. Weather – Sunny

This was the game that saw the unveiling of the new Leicester Stand (although not officially until a later game), and very impressive it is too. Pity the game wasn’t as impressive. I don’t think I have ever seen an enjoyable Bath/Leicester tussle. Once again, a fair bit of niggle between the front rows. Packs fairly equal (apart from the lineout where Bath never came to terms with Johnson), but we were superior in the backs and the defence was tremendous. The sole try was a long-distance breakaway by Adabayo. But at least we beat ‘em! This weekend see the odd sight of Harlequins at the top of the league! Sir John Hall was at this game – I shouldn’t think he saw much to impress, although the rookie Welsh ref was slightly better than those seen recently.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

A BRAVE decision to select Adedayo Adebayo little more than a week after his return from New Zealand paid off spectacularly for Bath.

In fact it was almost too spectacular as the England tourist finished off a 65-metre dash with an extravagant dive over the try line.

Whether Adebayo actually touched the ball down according to the letter of the law is open to doubt, but there was enough “downward pressure” to satisfy Welsh referee Tony Rowlands.

“As a touch-down it wasn’t the best executed,” admitted the left wing. “I had no doubts at the time but having looked at the TV replay well, I’ll leave it at that!” he added, with a laugh.

Adebayo looked particularly sharp after spending the summer with Southland, including an epic Ranfurly Shield encounter with Canterbury, but he was surprised to be called up.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect to play today. It was a brave decision to pick me and, fortunately, it worked well.”

Even as early as this in the Courage League season, taking two points from the champions at Welford Road represents a huge step in Bath’s bid to regain the title.

The air of crushing disappointment among the 16,000 Tigers fans – and the firmly closed home dressing room door – told the story. It was their first home league defeat in nearly two years.

Despite the strength of the Leicester front five, Bath held the upper hand in the loose where Ben Clarke, Steve Ojomoh and especially Andy Robinson made an immense contribution.

All Tigers skipper Dean Richards had to show for his efforts was a yellow card after being flagged for foul play by the touch judge.

The try that settled a tense match of low ambition came on the hour when Bath had begun to wind up the tempo, recycling the ball quickly between forwards and backs.

It’s second nature to the Bath players but Leicester are happier to let things revolve around the set-piece, particularly the line-out where Martin Johnson won any amount of ball.

So as Leicester were drawn into spreading the ball wider themselves, they came unstuck. Neil Back threw a wild pass and John Liley could only knock it into Adebayo’s path.

Jon Callard, already successful with two out of three penalty attempts, missed the conversion and Liley pulled back the home side back to 9-11 with his third penalty.

Bath were on the defensive for the last 10 minutes but, with Jeremy Guscott tackling superbly, they never lost their nerve.

Increasingly desperate, Leicester lacked the poise to unlock the defence and gave away two penalties for obstructing tacklers. The second gave Callard his third penalty in injury time.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING: two stars

BATH FORM: unflustered

SCORERS: 5 mins – Callard pen, nil-3; 7 mins – Liley pen, 3-3; 12 mins – Liley pen, 6-3 (H-T); 50 mins – Callard pen, 6-6; 61 mins – Adebayo try, 6-11; 70 mins – Liley pen, 9-11; 82 mins – Callard pen, 9-14.

LEICESTER: Liley; Hackney, Potter, Robinson, R Underwood; Malone, Hamilton; Rowntree, Cockerill, Garforth, Johnson, Poole, Wells, Richards, Back.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: Tony Rowlands (Welsh RFU).

CONDITIONS: weather – sunny; pitch – perfect.

 

30/9/1995

v Orrell, Home. Won 55-20. Team:- Callard (Tx2, 6c & 1p), Lumsden, de Glanville (T), Guscott (T), Adebayo (Tx2), Catt (T), Nicol, Yates, Dawe, Ubogu (T), Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Johnson, McCarthy, Crompton  Ref – A Rowden. Ground – Excellent. Weather – Overcast

At last, Bath looked as though they were beginning to click into gear with a fast and furious performance of running rugby. Some of the ideas were so outrageous that they were bound to misfire, but the invention, wit and speed of the whole thing was at times breathtaking. Orrell never gave up and ran till the end, but on the whole they were outclassed and out-thought. No individual stars, it was a glorious team effort.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

HOW ironic that under Phil de Glanville’s leadership, centre partner Jeremy Guscott is at last beginning to show his true class.

In taking over as captain at Bath, one of de Glanville’s declared aims, aside from furthering his own England career, was to get “big games from the big names.”

Everyone knew who he was talking about and Guscott has responded in recent weeks with his best performances for a long time, certainly since before the pelvic injury that ruled him out of the game for a year.

Against Leicester, his defensive work was of the highest quality but, as Orrell discovered, the famed attacking flair is re-emerging too.

Guscott, who finished off a wonderful 90 metre move for Bath’s fourth try, acknowledges that he has been under pressure from his centre partner but has clearly worked hard since the World Cup.

“I’m trying to build a little more into the season, in terms of my fitness, pace and power,” said the man who has won 39 caps for England and played five British Isles Tests.

“I’m looking to be at my peak, hopefully, in readiness for South Africa. But that all depends on selection.”

De Glanville recognises the cruel reality that an in-form Guscott is likely to slam the door on his own England chances, unless Will Carling is cast into the wilderness, which is unlikely.

“It’s frustrating – it has been for two years. I’ve got used to it but that doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating,” said the Bath skipper.

“But if Bath win the double, I’ll be happy,” added de Glanville, whose own form is quite comfortably international class.

For the moment he can gain huge satisfaction from the blistering start that Bath have made to the new Courage League campaign.

Eight tries against Orrell lifted the points tally to 126 in just four games but it was the manner of the victory that was especially heartening.

The first try came on two minutes after Bath had burst out of the blocks, ignoring the boring old boot downfield to keep the ball in hand. The only interruptions from kick-off to Adedayo Adebayo touching down were a scrum and a tapped free-kick.

Jon Callard, who finished with 25 points, converted from the touchline before replying to a Simon Mason penalty with a 25-metre kick of his own.

Adebayo’s second try followed a breathtaking passage of play – England selector Mike Slemen, also coaching adviser to Orrell, reckoned it came from eighth phase possession!

Callard added a third in the same left hand corner, his well-struck conversion making the score 24-3 as Bath motored along at a point a minute.

Another Mason penalty stirred Bath into the superb Guscott effort on the stroke of half-time. Bath were actually defending deep in their own 22 but stole the ball and launched Adebayo from under their own posts before Catt made the link.

Orrell, who actually defended tolerably well, responded with a close-range try by Scotland A hooker Martin Scott.

But Bath were on high-octane stuff and Victor Ubogu and de Glanville added further tries before the visitors fashioned a well-worked score for centre Paul Johnson.

A Catt try and another for Callard, both converted by the prolific full-back, brought up the half-century for Bath for only the fourth time in the league.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – four stars

BATH FORM: dynamic

SCORERS: 2 mins – Adebayo try, Callard conv, 7-nil; 5 mins – Mason pen, 7-3; 7 mins – Callard pen, 10-3; 15 mins – Adebayo try, Callard conv, 17-3; 23 mins – Callard try & conv, 24-3; 29 mins – Mason pen, 24-6; 39 mins – Guscott try, 31-6 (H-T); 51 mins – Scott try, Mason conv, 31-13; 58 mins – Ubogu try, 36-13; 64 mins – de Glanville try, 41-13; 71 mins – Johnson try, Mason conv, 41-20; 77 mins – Catt try, Callard conv, 48-20; 81 mins – Callard try & conv, 55-20.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

ORRELL: Mason; Naylor, Wynn, Johnson, Smith; Hamer, Healey; Winstanley, Scott, Cundick, Cusani (rep Parr, 50 mins), Glynn, Huxley, Bibby, Manley.

REFEREE: Ashley Rowden (Berkshire Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – dull, some drizzle; pitch – lush.

 

7/10/1995

v Wasps, Away. Won 15-6. Team:- Callard (1c & 1p), Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo (Tx2), Catt, Nicol, Yates, Dawe, Hilton, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke. Replacements – Sanders, French, Ubogu  Ref – Ed Morrison. Ground – Weedy and a bit clogged. Weather – Overcast drizzle

Oh what a disappointment! This game was billed as showing the way for running rugby and turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. Neither side could get going and Bath won by the strength of their defence, coupled with their ability to take their chances when they arose (seldom). Rob Andrew had a nightmare of a match, proving perhaps that Newcastle and Wasps don’t mix. So Bath remain top of the table with Harlequins, thanks mainly to Robinson (again!) and de Glanville. This was the game that Ubogu was dropped. Watch this space! This was also the game when the great de Glanville reached his 100th game for Bath.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

IF Jack Rowell is serious in his intention to play an out-and-out tearaway in the England back row this season, it’s hard to see how he can totally ignore Andy Robinson.

The Bath flanker is not in the England squad – that honour goes to Leicester’s Neil Back and the newcomer from Harlequins, Rory Jenkins.

But, as Wasps discovered, the battle-hardened Robinson remains the supreme exponent of the openside’s arts.

His uncanny anticipation and sheer street-wisdom, welded to extraordinary mental and physical resilience, make him indispensable to Bath.

Robinson’s form is one very good reason why Bath are virtually unbeatable at the moment and he could certainly help England make the transition to a more fluid style.

Bath play the 15-man game more effectively than any other side but sometimes, as at Sudbury, a more pragmatic approach prevails.

It was not pretty, but the Courage League leaders can strike with deadly effect when opponents make mistakes in the 22, as Wasps did.

The man to profit was left wing Adedayo Adebayo whose two tries brought his tally to five in three games.

Robinson admitted that Bath had not played with the sort of ambition constantly being demanded by skipper Phil de Glanville, the other outstanding figure in a poor match.

“But playing up here is not the same as at the Rec,” said Robinson. “All the same, we’ve gone to Wasps and Leicester in recent weeks and won, whereas last year we lost. That’s two good results.”

Bath’s determination to regain the league this season is exemplified by the decision to throw away the tackle bags clubs normally use for training sessions.

It’s all fierce bodily contact work, which helps to remind the first-teamers that there are plenty of players in the United who want their places. And that suits an old campaigner like Robinson.

“The training’s been tremendous this year,” he said. “Because people are more body-hardened in the training sessions, you get used to the knocks and there seem to be fewer injuries.”

Robinson had a hand, or a foot, in both Bath tries. The first came when a 22 drop-out by Rob Andrew hit him on the boot and Bath won two rucks to put Adedayo Adebayo over in the corner.

The second resulted from a poor pass to the hapless Andrew who collected the ball and Robinson at the same time. A split-second later Ben Clarke’s knee accidentally caught him in the face.

As a concerned Clarke bent over his England teammate, Bath worked the ball away to the left where Adebayo collected his second try. While Andrew staggered off with blood pouring from a gashed brow and another wound inside his mouth, Callard kicked the conversion.

In typically outspoken mood, team manager John Hall branded Bath’s first-half performance as “inept” and accused his players of operating “in the comfort zone.”

The first 40 minutes were indeed pretty poor fare, with scoring restricted to a penalty apiece for Jon Callard and Rob Andrew.

As in the Pilkington Cup final last May, Bath found themselves under heavy pressure, particularly in a five-minute period at the end of the first quarter.

The closest Wasps came to scoring was when impressive Wasps No 8 Peter Scrivener lost the ball over the try-line. The home side kept battering away but Bath’s decision to field David Hilton instead of Victor Ubogu was justified as Wasps were repulsed at a succession of close range scrums.

Eventually, Buster White was forced into touch at the corner by Audley Lumsden and Mike Catt cleared the danger after Martin Haag won the line-out.

Andrew had a dreadful afternoon, kicking one out of seven penalties and having five kicks charged down. He did succeed with a dropped goal to give Wasps a short-lived lead but even that was touched in flight by Catt.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – two stars

BATH FORM: unforgiving

SCORERS: 1 min – Callard pen, nil-3; 7 mins – Andrew pen, 3-3; 55 mins – Andrew dropped goal, 6-3; 59 mins – Adebayo try, 6-8; 79 mins – Adebayo try, Callard conv, 6-15.

WASPS: Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, James (rep Gomarsall, 63 mins), Roiser; Andrew (rep James, 80 mins), Bates; Popplewell, Dunn, Dunston, Greenwood, Ryan, Dallaglio, Scrivener, White.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Hilton, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: Ed Morrison (Bristol Soc.).

CONDITIONS: weather – dull, windy; pitch – good.

 

14/10/1995

v Bristol, Home. Won 52-19. Team:- Callard (4c & 3p), Geoghegan (T), de Glanville, Guscott (Tx3), Adebayo, Catt (T), Sanders, Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh (T), Clarke (T).  Replacements – Johnson, McCarthy, Yates  Ref – B Campsall. Ground – Perfect. Weather – Hot and perfect

Wow! This was the game that gave you back your faith in rugby! Bath played the most outstanding 15-man game seen for many a long while. Invidious to pick out anyone specific, but again Robinson was everywhere. Sander’s return went very well and he certainly distributes the ball swiftly. Jack Rowell was in the crowd, so I hope he learnt a thing or two. Bristol, even with their much vaunted pack, were vastly disappointing.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

A DECADE or more of Bath dominance has been hard for their near-neighbours to bear.

But how on earth do they come to terms with the awful truth that the gap is widening?

On the evidence of this record defeat, there is a huge gulf between the sides – not just in ability but in the whole approach to the game.

The only consolation for someone like Kyran Bracken is that, as England scrum-half in waiting, he can look forward to loading the bullets for the likes of Catt, Guscott and de Glanville.

Bracken was as shell-shocked as the rest of the Bristol contingent, particularly since he had been suffering from a virus all week.

But that did not stop him offering a generous appraisal of a side who are already setting a red-hot pace for the rest of the First Division.

All Bristol’s brave talk of taking a stranglehold up front was blown away in 80 minutes of joyous running rugby from Bath, each of their seven tries drawing huge roars of appreciation from the full house at the Rec.

Bracken, not afraid to mention his opponents in the same breath as the All Blacks, did not let the crushing disappointment hide his admiration.

“That’s the way I hope to see England playing this year. It’s the way I like to play. They were just out of this world,” he ventured.

“It was almost like playing sevens. We were kicking off, losing possession, and they weren’t giving it back.

“They don’t kick for line-outs. They just try to keep possession, nicking any ball they can, rucking and running, rucking and running – and there’s nothing you can do.

“Obviously it was very difficult for Bristol but Bath are playing the sort of rugby the All Blacks have been playing.”

If there was ever any doubt as to how the league leaders would approach the game, it was revealed in the surprise choice of their own scrum-half.

Out went Andy Nicol, of Scotland and the British Lions, and in came Ian Sanders, whose only international experience has been with England Emerging Players.

But reputation has never dictated selection at Bath. They just knew that the 24-year-old policeman has much the faster service and it would help to ensure that the match did not degenerate into a dog-fight up front.

It worked like a dream. At restart kicks especially, Nigel Redman and others merely had to tap the ball down in Sanders direction for it to be whipped lightning-quick to Catt and out there in the wide-open spaces the damage was done.

Bristol, again forced into fielding two young centres on the wings in Kevin Maggs and Mark Denney, were neatly unzipped as early as the eighth minute, following a tapped penalty.

Adedayo Adebayo, in a rich vein of form on the Bath left, took out two defenders on the touchline and Jeremy Guscott accepted a return pass for the try.

Jon Callard swapped penalties with Mark Tainton, who had actually opened the scoring, but Bath stretched further ahead when the Bristol defence were so heavily committed that Guscott only had to round Alan Sharp to score under the posts.

The Scotland loosehead was expected to play a vital role in disrupting Bath’s scrummage but Bristol were twice penalised for collapsing and late in the game lost a strike against the head.

Nor did Bristol achieve their customary dominance in the line-out, where Redman and Haag varied their tactics intelligently. It was clear that Simon Shaw is still coming to terms with the move from front jumper to middle.

Bristol’s best chance of a try when the match was still a contest came just before half-time but Tainton had to stretch just that little bit too far for a pass and spilled the ball.

He did kick a penalty right after the interval to make it 21-12 but missed another shortly afterwards. Then the sky fell in.

A loose kick by Paul Hull went straight to Catt who ran it straight back from his own half before feeding Callard. He made the breach and Guscott appeared on his shoulder to coast in for his hat-trick.

Four minutes later Bristol won a line-out on their 22 only to be robbed in the subsequent maul. Steve Ojomoh burst from the huddle and nobody was going to stop the big blindside from that distance.

Ben Clarke thought he had scored on the hour but it was ruled out for a forward pass. His reward eventually came as Bath rattled up 19 points in just four minutes, scoring twice from restarts.

The No 8 first appeared outside Adebayo to score in the corner, while the next score went to Catt, sprinting clear after launching a move which featured de Glanville, Andy Robinson and the remarkable Graham Dawe.

Bath’s last try went to Simon Geoghegan, Callard’s conversion bringing up the half-century. Hurt pride stung Bristol into working lock Garath Archer for a try but it was an empty gesture.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – four stars

BATH FORM: turbo-charged

BRISTOL FORM: pedestrian

SCORERS: 2 mins – Tainton pen, nil-3; 8 mins – Guscott try, 5-3; 12 mins – Callard pen, 8-3; 16 mins – Tainton pen, 8-6; 22 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, 15-6; 26 mins – Callard pen, 18-6; 31 mins – Tainton pen, 18-9; 38 mins – Callard pen, 21-9 (H-T); 42 mins – Tainton pen, 21-12; 46 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, 28-12; 50 mins – Ojomoh try, 33-12; 68 mins – Clarke try, 38-12; 70 mins – Catt try, Callard conv, 45-12; 72 mins – Geoghegan try, Callard conv, 52-12; 76 mins – Archer try, Tainton conv, 52-19.

BATH: Callard; Geoghegan, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Sanders; Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

BRISTOL: Hull; Maggs, Keyter, Wring, Denney; Tainton, Bracken; Sharp, Regan, Hinkins, Shaw, Archer, Armstrong, Corry, Barrow.

REFEREE: Brian Campsall (Yorkshire Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – warm, sunny; pitch – well grassed.

 

BRISTOL’S 11th successive defeat against Bath since the Courage Leagues began eight years was a real record-breaker.

It was Bath’s biggest win over their neighbours, both in terms of points scored and the margin of victory, eclipsing the 31-8 scoreline at the Memorial Ground three years ago.

But it was also the first time that Bristol have conceded 50 points in a league match. Their worst performance previously was the 47-11 defeat at West Hartlepool last season.

Bath, on the other hand, are averaging 32 points a game in the league this season having scored 23 tries in the six games and conceded just four.

Bristol coach Adrian Gouldstone said simply: “I told our lads afterwards that they just had to take it on the chin. There’s no substitute for class.”

And skipper Paul Hull added: “It wasn’t that we played that badly, just that they played particularly well.

“The individual tackling was very good but as a team we didn’t put enough pressure on them and they just ran the show.

“You can’t afford to give them that much space because they have such pacey backs.

“I don’t think you’ll see a better performance than that from a Bath team.

“Andy Robinson was just all over the place. He linked and tackled and was in our faces all afternoon. And any time there was a breakdown he was there to recycle the ball.

“On song, they’re very, very good. We just caught them on the wrong day. Hopefully it won’t be that bad when we get them at home.”

Lock Simon Shaw admitted: “We knew we had to be on our toes but we weren’t really awake.

“I don’t know what happened mentally as far as we were concerned. We didn’t seem clued in and, apart from the penalties, we never looked like scoring for most of the game.

“It was very hard to get the guys together after they had scored a couple of tries. People started to dip their heads a bit early, even in the first half.

“I really can’t say what happened. It was all happening too fast and we didn’t know how to cope with it.”

Bath skipper Phil de Glanville: “It was really good, a fantastic game and I enjoyed it immensely. That’s what it’s all about, when there’s a real buzz in the crowd and amongst the squad.

“We counteracted them very well. The possession we won today, the quality of it, was fantastic. When you win that sort of ball going forward, it shows how dangerous we can be with the backs we’ve got, and the back row.

“Last week everyone was slagging us off for being really boring. It’s just the way things go sometimes. Today it all went for us.”

 

21/10/1995

v Harlequins, Away. Won 19-13. Team:- Callard (1c & 4p), Lumsden (T), de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo, Catt, Sanders, Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Peters, Clarke.  Replacements – Johnson (rep. Catt 75 mins), French, Crompton  Ref – C White. Ground – Excellent. Weather – Perfect

So here we are having won all our games so far this season, including away to our three greatest rivals – Leicester, Wasps and now Quins. This was billed as the ‘Catt/Pears’ show, and Catt came out on top. Unfortunately they were both injured near the end of the game. Bath were superior to a tenacious Quins team, and really should have piled on the points in the second half. But somehow we went off the boil. Robinson again the class act, together with Guscott, who is looking really good again.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH’S `triple whammy’ of away wins over their closest challengers has all but killed off the Courage League title race – and autumn is hardly with us yet.

With seven straight wins under their belts, including victories at Leicester, Wasps and now Quins, what’s the betting now on an unbeaten league campaign?

There is certainly no air of complacency in the Bath camp. In fact the level of self-criticism borders on the masochistic.

Coach Brian Ashton is very much the forgotten man of the Bath set-up these days.

Prevented by school duties from attending games, he has to spend hours poring over match videos. It’s a frustrating role in which his main contact with the players is at midweek training.

But it allows him to offer a more critical analysis of the team’s progress – and he doesn’t mince his words.

“I was left with a sense of half-frustration, half-disappointment,” said Ashton. “I’m delighted that we got two points away from home again but it could have been so much more.

“My honest feeling is that we actually let them back into the game but, at the end of the day, they weren’t good enough to win it.

“We do set ourselves very high standards and it’s disappointing, especially after last week’s performance against Bristol, to feel that we couldn’t actually repeat it on a similar sort of day 100 miles East.

“But we’re going to have to do that, have the patience and the will to play the same sort of game – for 80 minutes, not 20 – away from home as we do at home.”

That’s a tall order, particularly as Bath’s form at the Rec has been of the highest quality, averaging 48 points a game.

And in questioning his side’s approach away from home, Ashton does discount the attitude of the opposition. Many sides, in working out where they are going to pick up league points, automatically write off their chances at Bath.

At home though, they are a different proposition, driven by personal pride and their own supporters’ expectations to make that extra effort. Quins are a good example.

Bath began in such breathtaking fashion that they threatened to blow the Londoners away, but Will Carling and his colleagues stood firm and looked equally threatening at times.

David Pears and Jon Callard swapped penalties and Quins came close to scoring when Carling swooped on a high ball spilled by Ben Clarke. Halted on the line, Quins’ over eagerness cost them a penalty.

The instant response was Bath at their boldest. A quick tap released Adedayo Adebayo inside the 22 and the move only foundered 70 metres on, deep in Quins territory.

Considering the way Bath were tossing the ball in all directions, looking for that all-important opening, it was a surprise that their 27th minute try came from first-phase possession.

A deft flick by Martin Haag at the front of the line and Ian Sanders’ instant delivery allowed Mike Catt to send Jeremy Guscott on an angled run past Pears. Skipper Phil de Glanville was in support to send Audley Lumsden over for the touchdown.

 

Jon Callard converted but Quins replied within four minutes through wing Daren O’Leary after Carling, the impressive Peter Mensah and Jim Staples had made the opening.

From that point, Bath seemed to be guilty of trying too hard.

Technical errors crept into their game and after half-time, instead of keeping the ball in hand, they began to kick for touch – and not too accurately either.

Fortunately, players like Nigel Redman are adaptable enough to cope and he did his work in the tight and also pulled off a couple of crucial tackles.

Callard kicked three second-half goals to secure victory and although Pears replied with a dropped goal, a succession of injuries diluted Quins’ efforts at a comeback.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

BATH FORM: uneven

SCORERS: 8 mins – Pears pen, 3-nil; 12 mins – Callard pen, 3-3; 27 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, 3-10; 31 mins – O’Leary try, Pears conv, 10-10 (H-T); 44 mins – Callard pen, 10-13; 51 mins – Callard pen, 10-16; 67 mins – Callard pen, 10-19; 69 mins – Pears dropped goal, 13-19.

HARLEQUINS: Staples (rep Wright, H-T); O’Leary, Carling, Mensah, Bromley; Pears (rep Moore, 76 mins), Kitchin; Brown, Mitchell, Mullins, Snow, Thresher (rep Pickup, 62 mins), Russell, Watson, Allison.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt (rep Johnson, 76 mins), Sanders; Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Peters, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: Chris Wright (Gloucestershire Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – sunny; pitch – good.

 

28/10/1995

v Saracens, Home. Won 52-16. Team:- Callard (6c), Lumsden (T), de Glanville (T), Guscott (T), Geoghegan (Tx2), Butland, Sanders (Tx2), Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Peters, Clarke.  Bath awarded a penalty try  Replacements – Johnson, McCarthy, Hilton  Ref – S Lander. Ground – Perfect. Weather – Gorgeous

This started off looking as though it might be a rout, as per the Bristol game, However, a combination of some iffy refereeing plus determined resistance by Sarries meant Bath periodically went off the boil. When they zinged, they really showed again the 15-man game they are trying to maintain this year. Robinson and de Glanville again outstanding in a truly team effort. Guscott got his 100th try for the Club in this game.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH have run in 32 tries in their eight league games – five more than defending champions Leicester scored in the whole of last season’s 18-match First Division campaign.

It’s a stark reminder of just how potent the current Bath team has become – possibly developing into the most exciting of all their great sides over the last 15 years.

Ask Saracens, who shaded the league leaders for possession and spent two thirds of the game in the Bath half.

Much good it did them. They conceded eight tries and became the third side in a row to come away from the Rec on the wrong end of a 50 point thrashing.

Bath are not so much in a different class to everybody else in the league – that’s pretty obvious – it’s that they are playing a totally different game.

It’s as if they have discovered a new dimension to the sport. It certainly has more in common with Southern Hemisphere rugby than the stodgy old fare British fans are used to.

In firepower terms it’s like comparing a flint-lock pistol with a modern semi-automatic. And it’s proving a hit with spectators who are flocking to the Rec in greater numbers than ever before.

Former Bath hooker Rob Cunningham is now coaching Saracens’ forwards and was as impressed as anybody.

“They’re doing things that nobody else is even trying at the moment,” said the ex-Bristol supremo.

“They have changed the emphasis of their game entirely. It’s not as if we did much wrong from our point of view – our forwards went particularly well and we had our chances – but once they’ve got the ball, look out!”

Things started to go wrong for the Londoners from the kick-off as Bath ran a free-kick and two penalties in quick succession. They eventually earned a penalty try on 50 seconds as Ben Clarke was tackled in an off-side position under the posts.

The next 20 minutes belonged to Saracens and their combative pack in which openside Richard Hill was outstanding throughout.

Andy Lee kicked a penalty to pull them back to 7-3 but he missed with four more attempts before Bath burst back into life with a score by Irish wing Simon Geoghegan.

Jon Callard had run back a loose kick to set up the position but it was the under-rated Ian Sanders who made the telling break.

Skipper Phil de Glanville added a third on 27 minutes, showing his pace with a flat run across the defence to reach the corner. Jon Callard landed his third conversion before Lee finally notched a second penalty.

If the bubbling Rec crowd thought that it was going to be plain sailing after the interval, they had a rude shock as the second half got under way.

A swift Saracens thrust down the right pulled in the Bath defence and full-back Andy Tunningley slid a perfectly judged kick through to the left corner for Peter Harries to score.

At 21-11 Saracens were by no means out of things, but the loss of England A No 8 Anthony Diprose with a shoulder injury knocked them out of their stride.

Within a couple of minutes the rejuvenated Jeremy Guscott celebrated his 100th try for Bath and Callard’s thrust allowed Audley Lumsden to add another direct from the restart.

Callard’s conversion – he kicked six in all to become the first Bath player to reach 500 league points – stretched the lead to 33-11.

Although Sanders pounced on an untidy Saracens heel on their own line for a sixth try the Londoners continued to pursue their own pressure game.

The trouble is Bath only need a sniff of possession these days to make it tell.

Geoghegan’s second try was a straightforward run-in, a neatly crafted effort by Sanders and Andy Robinson on the blindside of an attacking scrum.

Tunningley sped down the left touchline for a well-deserved score in the closing minutes but the last word was left to ambitious Bath as Sanders finished off a spectacular 70-metre move under the posts.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – four stars

BATH FORM: magical SCORERS: 1 min – penalty try, Callard conv, 7-nil; 6 mins – Lee pen, 7-3; 22 mins – Geoghegan try, Callard conv, 14-3; 27 mins – de Glanville try, Callard conv, 21-3; 33 mins – Lee pen, 21-6 (H-T); 41 mins ¬- Harries try, 21-11; 53 mins – Guscott try, 26-11; 56 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, 33-11; 62 mins – Sanders try, 38-11; 75 mins – Geoghegan try, Callard conv, 45-11; 76 mins – Tunningley try, 45-16; 80 mins – Sanders try, Callard conv, 52-16.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Geoghegan; Butland, Sanders; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Peters, Clarke, Robinson.

SARACENS: Tunningley; Gregory, Buckton, Ravenscroft, Harries; Lee, Davies; Holmes, Olney, Wilson, Langley, Yandell, Green, Diprose (rep Zaltzman, 51 mins), Hill.

REFEREE: Steve Lander (Liverpool).

CONDITIONS: weather – fine; pitch – perfect.

 

4/11/1995

v Sale, Away. Won 30-18. Team:- Callard (T, 3c & 3p), Lumsden (Tx2), de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo, Butland, Sanders, Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Nicol, French, Yates  Ref – C Rees. Ground – Good. Weather – Perfect

This was the game at which Callard celebrated the birth of his daughter Georgia the day before, by giving another superlative performance to mark his recall to the England line-up. A cracker of a game and Sale certainly gave us a run for our money. Paul Turner really is a magic man and was instrumental in Sale being well ahead with 5 minutes to go. However, Bath managed to play the Houdini-game again and ran out winners, to leave us at the top of the tree, unbeaten at the halfway point in the season.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

WITH Georgia on his mind, you couldn’t really blame Jon Callard for missing a sitter in the first ten minutes.

Callard’s wife Gail had given birth to their first child, daughter Georgia, less than 24 hours before.

So the England full-back joined his teammates in Cheshire in an understandably emotional state after less than four hours sleep and a tiring drive up the M6.

“When I lined up that kick I must admit my mind was elsewhere,” said the proud father. “It was a howler but I told myself I just had to get into the game.”

And he eventually rounded off a wonderful week by scoring the first of two late tries that clinched a ninth successive Courage League win.

For good measure he landed all the conversions and a third penalty in injury time to finish with 20 points, taking his league tally for the season to 136.

“It’s been a great week really,” said Callard, who last Wednesday was recalled by England for the clash with world champions South Africa on Saturday week.

“But, from the rugby point of view, this is only the start. We’ve reached the half-way stage of the league unbeaten but we must really concentrate now to keep this league.

“Now we’ve got to win all 18 games, not expect others to slip up.”

In fact, Bath came as close as they done all season to slipping up themselves, unsettled by Sale’s vigorous forward effort and the clever promptings of the old maestro, Paul Turner.

Rob Liley and Callard had exchanged penalties before the Cheshire club fashioned a slick try for full-back Jim Mallinder after Turner had committed the Bath defence under the posts.

Liley extended the lead to ten points and, as half-time approached, it was obvious that the league leaders were out of sorts, struggling to breach the gain line and making uncharacteristic errors behind the scrum.

But a second penalty for Callard showed he was back in the groove while Liley’s eccentric technique was letting Sale down.

Five minutes into the second half Bath’s backs finally clicked when Jeremy Guscott sent Phil de Glanville surging through a gap. The Bath skipper made 40 metres before threading a well-timed pass to Audley Lumsden for the try.

Callard’s conversion from wide out on the right levelled the scores, but Sale were back in front almost immediately with a try that owed everything to Turner’s vision.

A tapped free-kick caught Bath napping as the former Wales fly-half floated a long pass over Lumsden’s outstretched fingers and a jubilant Jos Baxendell claimed the score, which went unconverted.

That left Sale 18-13 ahead with half an hour to hold out but they suffered a severe blow in the 57th minute when their effective line-out forward Dave Baldwin had to be replaced.

But Bath continued to look frustrated. It certainly got to Ben Clarke, the England No 8 passing to Turner one minute and next having a penalty reversed for booting an opponent.

Liley missed again, however, and the visitors took their cue in the closing minutes by launching a frantic series of attacks from a succession of tapped penalties.

Finally, with Victor Ubogu leading the heavy infantry, they worked Callard over on the left to draw level. It was not an easy conversion but the full-back is Mr Reliable these days.

Most sides would have been satisfied with a two-point lead at that stage but Guscott conjured another try for Lumsden with a typically elusive break and astute kick-ahead.

Callard converted and also added a closing penalty to end a rush of 17 points in barely six minutes.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

BATH FORM: resilient

SCORERS: 5 mins – Liley pen, 3-nil; 13 mins – Callard pen, 3-3; 17 mins – Mallinder try, Liley conv, 10-3; 25 mins – Liley pen, 13-3; 33 mins – Callard pen, 13-6 (H-T); 45 mins – Lumsden try, Callard pen, 13-13; 49 mins – Baxendell try, 18-13; 75 mins – Callard try & conv, 18-20; 79 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, 18-27; 82 mins – Callard pen, 18-30.

SALE: Mallinder; Liley, Baxendell, Higginbotham, C Yates; Turner, Warr; A Yates (rep Ridehalgh, 78 mins), Diamond, Smith, Fowler, Baldwin (rep Erskine, 57 mins), Hewitt, Vyvyan, Ashurst.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Butland, Sanders; Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: Chris Rees (London Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – sunny; pitch – good.

 

11/11/1995

v West Hartlepool, Home. Won 34-22. Team:- Callard (4c & 2p), Lumsden (T), de Glanville, Guscott (T), Sleightholme, Butland, Sanders, Yates, Dawe, Crompton D, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Pearce, Clarke (T).  Bath awarded a penalty try  Replacements – Johnson, McCarthy, Hilton  Ref – Ashley Rowden. Ground – Good if heavy. Weather – Rain

One day Sky will televise us when we are playing well! We won but not all that decisively and West played better than their bottom position would indicate. The half backs had a bit of a nightmare, but the front row were encouraging and I thought Pearce had a good game. Haag and Redman tireless as usual and Callard – surprise, surprise! – playing a supreme game at full back yet again. He passed 1,000 points for the Club in this match.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

IT’S impossible to see how money can buy any greater commitment from such a wholehearted player as Ben Clarke.

This is one of rugby’s brightest stars, a man who is destined to be one of its biggest earners when the sport goes fully professional.

And if England are to beat world champions South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday they will need a big performance from the Bath No 8.

Yet here he was, leading from the front in the worst of conditions and risking the sort of silly knock that might have put him out of action for that crucial week or so.

In fact Clarke scored one of four tries against West Hartlepool and was only denied a pushover score by the referee’s decision to award a penalty try instead.

He said afterwards: “It’s always at the back of your mind before you play a game that there is a prospect of getting injured.

“But I wouldn’t be an international if it wasn’t for Bath Rugby Club and the players here, so I don’t have any problem whatsoever about playing the week before playing South Africa.”

However, Bath could afford to rest back row colleague Andy Robinson

ahead of his international comeback, together with tighthead Victor Ubogu.

Mike Catt was still missing too and Bath did not enjoy their customary superiority but there was never any likelihood that the visitors would pull off the shock of the season.

Being the last in a punishing sequence of ten league matches, there was a `half-term break’ air about the Rec. News of Leicester’s defeat at Saracens merely added to the party atmosphere.

Jeremy Guscott opened the scoring as early as the second minute, cutting back to the posts through a flatfooted defence.

At that point the script went slightly awry as Bath found themselves pinned down in the corner. West No 8 Paul Evans scrambled over but could not ground the ball and Scottish scrum-half Derrick Patterson fired an intended scoring pass direct into touch.

So it was not too much of a surprise when Patterson put tighthead Mike Shelley under the posts from a tapped penalty.

Stimpson’s conversion brought the sides level but Jon Callard’s flawless kicking yielded two penalties to take his tally for the club beyond 1,000 points.

As he prepares for his fifth England cap, the 29-year-old full-back has never been in better form.

Stimpson, one of the heirs apparent, pulled back three points as West’s fierce tackling unsettled the leaders who also struggled to hang on to the slippery ball.

When Ian Sanders lost the ball at the back of a scrum after 32 minutes, Patterson booted it downfield to Callard.

The ball went loose and Bath looked to be in trouble – until left wing Jon Sleightholme picked up and hared away on a spectacular 60-metre run.

Having done all the hard work, he presented Audley Lumsden with his sixth league try in ten matches.

Trailing 20-10 at the interval, hapless West might have struck back almost immediately afterwards but left wing Andrew Blyth spilled the ball when Stimpson’s penalty attempt hit the post.

Clarke’s try came from a concerted forward drive after Guscott carved through and the penalty try was awarded when Patterson dived in to stop the No 8 grounding the ball from a pushover scrum.

At 34-10, the game was in the bag and there was only mild irritation that wing Owen Evans and No 8 Paul Evans hit back with tries in the last ten minutes.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

BATH FORM: cruising

SCORERS: 2 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, 7-nil; 11 mins – Shelley try, Stimpson conv, 7-7; 17 mins – Callard conv, 10-7; 22 mins – Callard pen, 13-7; 25 mins – Stimpson pen, 13-10; 33 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, 20-10 (H-T); 48 mins – Clarke try, Callard conv, 27-10; 66 mins – penalty try, Callard conv, 34-10; 71 mins – Owen Evans try, 34-15; 77 mins – Paul Evans try, Stimpson conv, 34-22.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme; Butland, Sanders; Yates, Dawe, Crompton, Haag, Redman, Pearce, Clarke, Ojomoh.

WEST HARTLEPOOL: Stimpson; O Evans, Hodder, Elwine, Blyth; Parker, Patterson; Beal, Herbert, Shelley (rep Sparks, 28 mins), Murphy, Westgarth, Mitchell, P Evans, Leach.

REFEREE: Ashley Rowden (Berkshire Soc.).

CONDITIONS: weather – raining; pitch – wet, heavy.

 

18/11/1995

v Coventry, Home. Won 28-23. Team:- Blackmore, Iacono, Webber, Seager (T), Blackett, Butland (2c & 3p), Johnson (T), Woodman T, McCarty (T), Crompton D, Maslen (Capt), McCoy, Nicholas, Pearce, Amphlett.  Replacements – Lloyd, Hussey, Sykes, Matthews  Ref – Steve Kent. Ground – Good. Weather – Cold but perfect

The first of the friendlies at this stage of the season saw a lively Coventry team (bolstered by their new Bristol arrivals) put up stiff resistance to this Bath team of ‘understudies’. After a pretty shaky start by Bath, they started to put it together and the educated boot of Butland, helped by an extremely lively back row and some good line-out work helped them to keep this year’s unbeaten season on The Rec.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH ran out worthy winners in front of a disappointingly small crowd at the Recreation Ground.

Coventry made a promising start and after a penalty from full-back Craig Quick, some snappy handling led to a try for centre Garrath Reayer, one of the side’s new recruits from Bristol.

The Reayer try went unconverted by Quick soon made amends with his second penalty and Bath were 11-nil down after just 14 minutes.

Eventually spurred into action, impressive hooker Neil McCarthy bored his way over for a try. But Coventry, led impressively by Derek Eves, increased their lead after a storming run by Horrobin.

Quick’s conversion, against two penalties from Bath fly-half Richard Butland, saw Coventry lead 18-11 at the break.

With the sun in their eyes, Coventry made a hash of Butland’s high kick early in the second period. From the resulting scrum, debutant centre Kenny Seager crossed for a try that Butland converted.

Butland’s third penalty inched Bath ahead for the first time before scrum-half Simon Johnson intercepted a pass on the half-way line to race away and score. Butland converted.

Right on the final whistle, Horrobin secured his second try to complete an entertaining afternoon.

Bath: Sam Blackmore; Tony Iacano, Andy Webber, Kenny Seager, Peter Blackett; Richard Butland, Simon Johnson; T Woodman, Neil McCarthy, Darren Crompton, Nick Maslen, Pat McCoy, Bill Nicholas, Ed Pearce, Rob Amphlett.

Coventry: C Quick; D Woodman, N Thomson, G Reayer, B Shepherd; J Hart, R Saverimutto; N Lewis, R Blundell, B Williams, T Gulliver, S Smith, M Curtis, J Horrobin, D Eves.

Referee: Steve Kent (Liverpool Soc)

 

25/11/1995

v Loughborough Students, Home. Lost 17-19. Team:- Blackmore, Iacono, Webber, Seager, Blackett, Book (2c & 1p), Johnson, Hussey, French, Curtis (T), Calver, McCoy (T), Nicholas, Maslen (Capt), Amphlett.  Replacements – Lloyd replaced Johnson  Ref – Ian Langley. Ground – Muddy. Weather – Pouring

After a bright start in appalling conditions, Bath looked as though they would hang on to their unbeaten record of 12 games. However, the students never gave up and gradually powered their way through to a good win. Some bright and entertaining rugby was played despite the appalling conditions.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

MATCH No 13 turned out to be the unlucky one as Bath’s impressive winning run this season ground to a halt.

This was Bath at their weakest, fielding a collection of willing second and third-teamers who have not had a sniff of Courage League action this season.

But they should have won, as skipper Nick Maslen acknowledged.

“It was the old story for us of being in control and then giving it away,” said the back row stalwart.

At 17-14 ahead as late as the 72nd minute, they looked to have done enough to have maintained the 100 per cent record.

But fly-half Clive Book, standing on his own goal-line, dropped a low pass from replacement scrum-half Nick Lloyd and Loughborough earned a five-metre scrum.

Bath’s defence repulsed the first thrust but the ball was quickly switched to the short side where left wing Nick Miller wriggled under a tackle for the clinching try.

The loss of scrum-half Simon Johnson six minutes earlier had been a turning point but the home side had only themselves to blame for squandering a ten-point lead.

Loughborough had opened the scoring in the seventh minute, very much against the run of play, when fly-half Nick Osman scored an opportunist try, chasing his own kick ahead.

Atkinson converted but, as the rain bucketed down, Book kicked a penalty on 20 minutes and also added the conversion when lock Pat McCoy was driven over for a try.

Although the conditions made life easier for defenders than attackers, Bath went ten points up when tighthead Mark Curtis rumbled over from a line-out.

But Loughborough battled back into the game, creating a try for prop Alex Poole from a tapped penalty which Atkinson converted.

Scorers: 7 mins – Osman try, Atkinson conv, nil-7; 20 mins – Book pen, 3-7; 31 mins – McCoy try, Book conv, 10-7; 45 mins – Curtis try, Book conv, 17-7; 53 mins – Poole try, Atkinson conv, 17-14; 73 mins – Miller try, 17-19.

Bath: Blackmore; Iacano, Webber, Seager, Blackett; Book, Johnson; Hussey, French, Curtis, Colver, McCoy, Maslen, Amphlett, Nicholas.

Loughborough: Jones; Storey, Propper, Atkinson, Miller; Osman, Daniels; Poole, Nunn, Kelly, Cox, White, Friend, Powell, Davis.

Referee: Ian Langley (Kent Soc).

 

2/12/1995

v Nottingham, Home. Won 99-12. Team:- Callard (Tx2, & 12c), Iacono (Tx2), de Glanville (T), Perry, Sleightholme (Tx3), Butland (T), Sanders (T), Yates (T), Dawe (T), Clark, Haag, Redman, Robinson (T), Pearce (T), Ojomoh (T).  Bath awarded a penalty try  Replacements – Johnson, French replaced Dawe, Hussey  Ref – Alec McKay. Ground – Sticky. Weather – Overcast

What an antidote to the weather and Christmas shopping! A near first team put on a dazzling display of handling and running by all 15 which all but blew Nottingham away, who never gave up despite being outgunned on all fronts. Invidious to pick out anyone really, but Robinson and de Glanville were again outstanding. This was a pipe-opener for the Cup game on 23rd. Long may it last!

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

JON Sleightholme warmed up for his England A date with the Western Samoans tomorrow week with a hat-trick as Bath ran up a club record score.

Astonishingly, when Jon Callard converted the right wing’s third try, Bath led 87-12 – and still had 20 minutes to bring up the century!

That already eclipsed the previous record of 84-nil against Streatham-Croydon on January 23, 1988 (worth 100-nil in these days of the five-point try).

But as the attackers’ legs tired and Nottingham defenders battled desperately to avoid further humiliation, the `ton’ eluded Bath.

That was a disappointment for the Recreation Ground crowd frantically urging them on, but perhaps a relief to operators of the digital scoreboard which cannot cope with three figures.

“I was sure we were going to score 120 or more,” said Sleightholme. “It was no-holds barred stuff out of the 22 and even behind our own line and I think we kicked only twice in the whole game.

“It’s refreshing to play a game like that because the pressure’s off. To be fair to Nottingham, they didn’t just lie down and die and scored a couple of good tries themselves.”

The England squad winger is a far more physical player than he was at this time last year.

“That aggression is coming out in a controlled way because I’m fighting for my place. It’s something Bath look for in their players and it’s what the club’s success is founded on.

“Training’s very competitive here and if you don’t compete, then you sink. You’ve got to take the knocks in training with the boys and you earn respect for doing that.”

One thing is for certain, though. He won’t be able to run through the Samoans at Gateshead as he did against a Nottingham side fielding just half a dozen first-teamers.

Sleightholme’s first try came after just 30 seconds. Nigel Redman collected the kick-off two-handed, Phil de Glanville burst through the middle, Andy Robinson provided the link and Tony Iacano came across from the left wing to put Sleightholme away.

His second started with a tapped penalty on half-way although he had to beat his opposite number with an impressive burst of speed on the touchline.

Iacano added a third try on the left, with Callard’s conversion taking the score to 19-nil after just 14 minutes.

An interception score by Nottingham right wing Tim Barley was answered immediately by Bath skipper de Glanville and followed in quick succession by tries from Andy Robinson and Iacano again.

Nottingham’s second try, by flanker John Brennan from an attacking scrum, offered little respite and Bath turned round 54-12 ahead at half-time after Ed Pearce and Callard crossed for the seventh and eighth tries.

Half-backs Ian Sanders and Richard Butland continued the rout immediately afterwards as Nottingham were torn to pieces by a bewildering and effective display of attacking rugby.

The forwards, apart from providing the possession, were playing a full part too. Hooker Graham Dawe and No 8 Steve Ojomoh were next on the scoresheet before Sleightholme completed his hat-trick on 60 minutes.

Loosehead Kevin Yates plunged over for the next try to take the score into the 90s but fatigue then began to set in and there was only one more try in the remaining 15 minutes.

That went to Callard, taking his match tally to a Bath club record of 34 points. Agonisingly, the touchline conversion kick that would have brought up the century hit the far post.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

BATH FORM: extravagant

SCORERS: 1 min – Sleightholme try, 5-nil; Sleightholme try, Callard conv, 12-nil; 14 mins – Iacano try, Callard conv, 19-nil; 18 mins – Barley try, Rutter conv, 19-7; 22 mins – de Glanville try, Callard conv, 26-7; 27 mins – Robinson try, Callard conv, 33-7; 29 mins – Iacano try, Callard conv, 40-7; 32 mins – Brennan try, 40-12; 34 mins – Pearce try, Callard conv, 47-12; 37 mins – Callard try & conv, 54-12 (H-T); 42 mins – Sanders try, 59-12; 44 mins – Butland try, Callard conv, 66-12; 48 mins – Dawe try, 73-12; 54 mins – Ojomoh try, Callard conv, 80-12; 60 mins – Sleightholme try, Callard conv, 87-12; 65 mins – Yates try, Callard conv, 94-12; 74 mins – Callard try, 99-12.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Perry, Iacano; Butland, Sanders; Yates, Dawe (rep French, 73 mins), Clark, Haag, Redman, Pearce, Ojomoh, Robinson.

NOTTINGHAM: Byrom; Barley, Mustoe, Bygrave, Holland; Rutter, Royer; Freer, Ireland (rep Grantham, 63 mins), Kangura, Jones, Veldhuizen, Bradley, Donald, Brennan.

REFEREE: Alex McKay (Cornwall Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – gloomy, drizzle; pitch – soft.

 

9/12/1995

v London Scottish, Away. Won 33-24. Team:- Seager, Iacono, Webber, Perry (T), Blackmore, Butland (2c & 3p), Johnson (T), Hussey, Atkins (T), Curtis (T), Calver, Gillies, Maslen, Vander, Amphlett.  Replacements – Lloyd replaced Butland.  Ref – J Burtenshaw. Ground – Sticky. Weather – Cold but fine

A near Spartans team won this all action game. Lots of running by both sides and a refreshing determination by both sides to play an open and entertaining game, despite the cold. Butland left the field in the second half with what looked like a nasty ankle injury. Up until then he had shown his class with some great breaks and intelligent line kicking. Regrouping led to some indecision by Bath and the Scots scored two late tries. Perry played another very impressive game and looks good for the future. Vander had a good debut and Gillies jumped well.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

FLANKER Adam Vander made an impressive senior debut as Bath’s youngsters ran the Scots ragged at Richmond Athletic Ground.

The former Bath University student cut a dashing figure, both in attack and defence, displaying that rare knack of being in the right place at the right time.

“He was absolutely everywhere, quite outstanding,” said assistant coach John Palmer. “he’s the best prospect I’ve seen for a long time.”

Vander left University last summer year but is now back in Bath after a spell with Rosslyn Park.

He was given his first team chance after making a good impression in the victory by a Bath Development XV against a New Zealand junior side recently.

With such an inexperienced line-up for an away fixture, Bath relied heavily on the experience of Nick Maslen and Colin Atkins in the pack.

But it was fly-half Richard Butland, well served by Simon Johnson, who was the inspiration behind the scrum.

Apart from keeping Bath ahead in the opening half hour with three penalties, he repeatedly carved through the Exiles’ defence only to see his efforts wasted through poor finishing.

But hooker Atkins burrowed over from a tapped penalty and Butland’s conversion ensured they turned round 16-5 ahead.

A mistake by Scottish running out of defence was punished by a try in the corner for Johnson and prop Mark Curtis was driven over from a line-out shortly afterwards.

Although home centre Fraser Harrold replied on the hour and Stent’s conversion made it 28-10, 18-year-old centre Matt Perry made the game safe by dummying his way over.

Butland had left the field with a leg injury and Scottish capitalised on the disorganisation in the Bath ranks by snatching two consolation tries in the final minutes.

SCORERS: 4 mins – Butland pen, nil-3; 7 mins – Johnston try, 5-3; 29 mins – Butland pen, 5-6; 34 mins – Butland pen, 5-9; 36 mins – Atkins try, Butland conv, 5-16 (H-T); 52 mins – Johnson try, 5-21; 56 mins – Curtis try, Butland conv, 5-28; 59 mins – Harrold try, Stent conv, 12-28; 75 mins – Perry try, 12-33; 78 mins – Gordon try, Stent conv, 19-33; 82 mins – Harrold try, 24-33.

LONDON SCOTTISH: Wichary; Gordon, Harrold, Kearney, Sly; Stent, Withers-Green; Signorini, McGavin, Baird, Johnston, Orr Ewing, Duthie, Jankovitch, Macleod (rep Buchanan-Smith, 79 mins).

BATH: Seager; Iacano, Webber, Perry, Blackmore; Butland (rep Lloyd, 69 mins), Johnson; Hussey, Atkins, Curtis, Calver, Gillies, Maslen, Amphlett, Vander.

REFEREE: John Burtenshaw (London).

 

15/12/1995

v Exeter, Home. Won 36-29. Team:- Seager (T & 3c), Lumsden (Tx2), Walters, Webber, Adebayo (T), Perry, Nicol (T), Yates, McCarthy, Crompton D (T), Haag (Capt), Gillies, Vander, Ojomoh, Pearce.  Replacements – Johnson replaced Perry, French, Maslen  Ref – Peter Huckle. Ground – Damp. Weather – Bitterly cold

On a freezing cold night, a very sparse crowd saw this scratch team beat Exeter. With the team we put out, there should have been more points on the board and on the whole the new boys looked sharper and keener than the old hands. First sight of Walters in the first team who looked as though he could be useful and Seager is growing comfortably into the full back spot. Perry, at fly half, continues to impress. Another of the all-running extravaganzas currently being played by the first team – quite fun but they sometimes take it too far.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

THE “no kicking” edict issued by new Director of Rugby John Hall certainly warmed up the action on a bitterly cold night.

But the four tries they conceded in the second half suggested that some players thought there was a ban on tackling too.

That certainly did not apply to the Devon side who defended with extraordinary enthusiasm, displaying a cussedness that will have to be repeated next weekend when Leicester visit for a Pilkington Cup fourth round tie.

Bath fielded five first team regulars – wings Audley Lumsden and Adedayo Adebayo, flanker Steve Ojomoh, prop Kevin Yates and lock Martin Haag, made captain for the night.

Out in the backs they had Bristol University student Fraser Waters making his first team debut.

With disarming honesty, the 19-year-old second year economics student said: “I thought I had a shocker.

“I had some difficulty fitting into the side, especially one playing such adventurous rugby. But I enjoy the atmosphere at Bath,” added Waters who joins the Bath training camp in Portugal next week.

The cup holders are hoping he will join them permanently when he is ready for the rigours of club rugby. His talent has already been recognised at divisional level and he was on the England A bench against the Western Samoans last Tuesday.

Another A replacement, Darren Crompton, got Bath off to a good start with a try in the first minute and further scores by Adedayo Adebayo and Andy Nicol earned a 17-3 half-time lead.

It was 24-3 after Audley Lumsden raced through shortly after the break but Exeter’s determination not to be overwhelmed caught Bath by surprise.

Kenny Seager and Lumsden crossed again but two-try lock Harry Langley had the last word with a try in the final minute to bring Exeter within a score.

SCORERS: 1 min – Darren Crompton try, 5-nil; 7 mins – Andy Green pen, 5-3; 27 mins – Adedayo Adebayo try, Kenny Seager conv, 12-3; 35 mins – Andy Nicol try, 17-3 (H-T); 43 mins – Audley Lumsden try, Seager conv, 24-3; 48 mins – John Batchelor try, Green conv, 24-10; 59 mins – Seager try & conv, 31-10; 62 mins – Langley try, Green conv, 31-17; 66 mins – Green try & conv, 31-24; 71 mins – Lumsden conv, 36-24; 80 mins – Langley try, 36-29.

BATH: Seager; Lumsden, Waters, Webber, Adebayo; Perry, Nicol (rep Johnson, 80 mins); Yates, McCarthy, Crompton, Haag, Gillies, Vander, Pearce, Ojomoh.

EXETER: Catling; Woodman, Thomas, Turner (rep Stewart, 69 mins), Doyle; Green, John; Reed, Cooper, Brooking, Langley, Curry, Batchelor, Baxter, Hutchinson.

REFEREE: Peter Huckle (Bristol Soc)

 

23/12/1995

v Northampton, Home. Won 12-3. Team:- Callard (4p), Geoghegan, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme, Catt, Sanders, Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Nicol, McCarthy, Yates, Butland  Ref – Ed Morrison. Ground – Quagmire. Weather – Cold Monsoon

After days of continuous rain and with the thermometer plummeting, it was feared that this mouth-watering cup-tie might turn into a non-event. Not a bit of it. This was a cracker! Played at a blinding pace and with great skill considering the conditions, both teams put on a magnificant display, and only Bath’s superior organisation in the pack let to the win. All eight, particularly Clarke, were outstanding. On to the next round!

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

IT WAS a day on which a collective judgement and individual assessment would have been as hazardous as the underfoot conditions at the Recreation Ground, but these two sides contrived to produce a game as good as any contest there has been all season.

If the better side won, and that is by no means certain, it was largely because most of the crucial decisions went Bath’s way.

Furthermore, had Northampton kicked the early goals which were offered to them rather than dementedly running everything, the result might have been different.

Nevertheless, the fact that the Saints kept in touch from the first to almost the very last was mainly because of a wondrously robust and superbly well organised defence, which time and again repulsed Bath when they seemed certain to score.

Twice in the first half Northampton’s line survived in the face of overwhelming odds. Once when Ben Clarke lost control of the ball in a tackle in the very act of scoring and again when Budge Pountney’s telescopic arm scooped the ball from Simon Geoghegan’s grasp after the winger had cut inside and seemingly had a clear run to the line.

On other occasions, however, it was Bath’s own poor decision-making that let them down. In the second half, when Clarke galloped clear with only Michael Dods to beat and flanked on either side by a supporting cast, the No 8 chose to kick when a pass would surely have produced a try.

Yet there could be no doubt that Bath held sway in the key areas, notably the maul, which in the greasy conditions was a most potent weapon. Time and again they made dramatic territorial gains, rolling the opposition upfield and forcing them to concede penalties. Another important area of possession came, more surprisingly, from the line-out where those wily campaigners Martin Haag and Nigel Redman took some vital ball. Bath also profited from the fact that Graham Dawe’s throwing in was a great deal more accurate than his opposite number’s.

But it was impossible not to feel enormous sympathy for Northampton, the side who have been setting all manner of scoring records and in their combined play yesterday showed precisely why. The quality of their passing and running in the conditions surpassed all expectations.

Yet it was their defence which sustained them. Gregor Townsend and Matt Allen, who have been cutting a swathe through the Second Division, did occasionally, if understandably, hang on to the ball a mite too long but as the game wore on they found a few gaps. They also contributed magnificently in the defensive chores as did the young half-backs, Paul Grayson and Matt Dawson. Both worked tirelessly in support of their back row.

How often though, have Bath shown themselves capable of absorbing intense pressure before delivering the decisive blows? With Northampton, trailing by just three points and with eight minutes left, beginning to find some enticing space, Bath had sufficient reserves of stamina to drive their opponents back. Twice Northampton infringed, although Ed Morrison’s ruling on one occasion seemed harsh, and both times Jon Callard kicked the goals to give Bath the breathing space they had been seeking from the very first minute when Callard kicked the first of his four penalties.

At that stage is had seemed that Bath’s speed behind the scrum, combined with the powerful driving of their forwards, might swamp Northampton. Again and again they swept down on the Saints’ line but were miraculously kept out. Gradually the confidence returned to Northampton and Grayson equalised with a penalty.

Callard’s second penalty four minutes before half-time was a fair enough reflection of the play and the question was whether or not Northampton’s defence could withstand another 40 minutes of the same.

It did, and the result was one of the most enjoyable games of the season so far. With it came a warning to all that although Northampton will have no further interest in the cup they will add lustre at the higher level in all competitions next season.

SCORERS: 1 min – Callard pen, 3-nil; 15 mins – Grayson pen, 3-3; 36 mins – Callard pen, 6-3 (H-T); 72 mins – Callard pen, 9-3; 78 mins – Callard pen, 12-3.

BATH; Callard; Geoghegan, de Glanville, Guscott, Sleightholme; Catt, Sanders; Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Clarke, Ojomoh.

NORTHAMPTON: Dods; Thorneycroft, Townsend, M Allen, Moir; Grayson, Dawson; Volland, Beddow, Hynes, Phillips, Bayfield, Rodber, Seely, Pountney.

REFEREE: Ed Morrison (Bristol Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – incessant rain; pitch – very heavy

 

6/1/1996

v Leicester, Home. Lost 14-15. Team:- Callard (3p), Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo (T), Catt, Sanders, Crompton D, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Nicol, French, Clark, Butland  Ref – B Campsall. Ground – Appalling. Weather – Likewise

An enormous and vociferous crowd saw Bath lose it’s unbeaten Home and League record for the season, by a narrow margin. After starting off at a blinding pace, Adebayo scoring a try in the first minute after some really good handling considering the weather, Leicester began to grind the game down to a near halt with some good work by Richards. Johnson, after narrowly avoiding being sent off in the first half, completely dominated the second half and Leicester won by playing the right, more boring, game for the day. Depressing, though.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH skipper Phil de Glanville will be keeping an anxious eye on the skies over the coming months.

After making hay in the autumn when the sun seemed to shine every time they took the field, the British weather threatens to make it a nervous run-in for the leaders.

Defending champions Leicester, now only two points behind, exposed the uncomfortable truth that Bath look far from invincible in the wet.

The qualities that make them virtually unbeatable on a dry day – pace, athleticism and boundless ambition – are worth little when the rain is driving into your face and the pitch is a quagmire.

Those are the sort of conditions in which Leicester are happiest, when the ball is never more than arm’s length from Dean Richards’s vice-like grasp.

But there was no pun intended when de Glanville said: “We played into their hands. People like Richards are hugely skilful at stealing ball.

“We needed a killer blow and it didn’t come. It’s a big setback but not a disaster – it depends how we react. The test of the side is how we bounce back,” added the 14 times-capped centre.

“It’s still down to us. If we win all seven remaining games, we’ll win the league.”

For ten minutes, it looked as if Bath were going to skin the Tigers in the way every other visiting side had been humiliated this season.

Martin Haag collected the kick-off, rucks were set up by Ben Clarke and Victor Ubogu and then de Glanville and Jeremy Guscott suddenly released Adedayo Adebayo on the left.

The wing outpaced the cover before stepping outside weak tackles by John Liley and Aadel Kardooni to finish off a stunning 60-metre move with just 34 seconds on the clock.

Jon Callard missed the conversion but Bath surged back into attack and Ben Clarke perhaps denied Adebayo a second try by holding on to the ball a moment too long.

They had to be content with a Callard penalty but that was 8-nil after five minutes and even Leicester supremo Tony Russ called it “fantastic rugby.”

Then the squall blew in and Bath began to get drawn into the sort of dogfight which used to be meat and drink to them. In those days however, they had Stuart Barnes, Richard Hill, Gareth Chilcott and John Hall running the show.

Barnes, now sitting in the TV commentary box, must have winced as Mike Catt struggled to find length or direction with his kicking.

But the forwards were also found wanting as the Leicester front five mounted a fierce onslaught. England lock Martin Johnson was warned twice in the first seven minutes and came close to being sent off.

He escaped but prop Darren Garforth received a yellow card in the 23rd minute for punching as the packs continued to war. Crucially, though, it was Bath who began to surrender control up front, even failing to control scrummage ball.

Meanwhile Liley, the coolest man on the field, was picking Bath off from varying distances with a faultless display of placekicking.

A third penalty edged his side in front on the half-hour and he added another within five minutes although Callard immediately pulled back three points so that Bath turned round 11-12 down.

Callard missed a longer effort just after the restart but Liley’s fifth kick on 58 minutes turned out to be the clincher, even though his opposite number landed a 28-metre effort soon afterwards.

The last quarter belonged to Leicester and their pack in which flanker John Wells was outstanding. Richards was claiming a try in the closing minutes only to be denied by a forward pass.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – two stars

BATH FORM: rudderless

SCORERS: 1 min – Adebayo try, 5-nil; 5 mins – Callard pen, 8-nil; 10 mins – Liley pen, 8-3; 14 mins – Liley pen, 8-6; 30 mins – Liley pen, 8-9; 35 mins – Liley pen, 8-12; 36 mins – Callard pen, 11-12 (H-T); 58 mins – Liley pen, 11-15; 61 mins – Callard pen, 14-15.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Sanders; Crompton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

LEICESTER: Liley; Kilford, Robinson, Delaney, R Underwood; Harris, Kardooni; Rowntree, Cockerill, Garforth, Johnson, Poole, Wells, Richards, Back.

REFEREE: Brian Campsall (Yorkshire).

CONDITIONS: weather – blustery, then driving rain; pitch – sticky.

 

13/1/1996

v Northampton, Away. Lost 12-21. Team:- Lumsden, Iacono (T), Webber, Waters, Adebayo, Butland (1c),Nicol (T), Yates, French, Crompton D, Haag (Capt), Gillies, Vander, Pearce, Amphlett.  Replacements – Johnson replaced Adebayo (50 mins), Maslen, Hussey

I could not go to this game as I was recovering from flu, so these opinions are those of the Evening Chronicle. Bath apparently had a lacklustre first half, but led by an inspired Haag in the second, came back fighting. Waters outstanding with Lumsden and Butland in strong support.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH coach Brian Ashton told Bath supporters to blame him for a performance in which the result was quite blatantly sacrificed for a longer term aim.

It’s one thing spurning the boot and putting 99 points on Nottingham at the Rec, as Bath did in December.

Persisting with the “no kicking” rule against a strong and confident Northampton side on their own patch is another matter entirely.

But Ashton was unrepentant, despite the failure to repeat the pre-Christmas Pilkington Cup victory over the Saints.

He is determined to find out how many of the younger players are capable of playing the high-octane rugby which Bath have made their trademark this season.

They simply cannot afford to get it wrong. If Bath are going to be laying out millions of pounds on player salaries from next season, they need to know that they are buying the right material.

“We did say in training that we would try to play the game without kicking and that puts an immense pressure on players,” admitted Ashton.

“But in some ways – this might seem strange coming from a Bath coach – it’s more important for me that I learn which players look as though they can handle the type of game we want to take into the future, as opposed to actually winning.

“If they can’t, then I’m afraid they’ve either got to improve fairly smartly or…” he did not need to spell out the alternative.

“We know exactly how we want to play the game in the next five years and we now need to look at some of these younger players and say: `Are you going to be able to cope with it?’

“So I’m forcing ambition on them at the moment. If you want to blame anyone for this defeat, blame me, because we could have kicked umpteen penalties at goal and probably won the game.

“I’m quite happy to take the blame from that point of view but I’m much more interested in the future of these younger players and the way Bath want to take the game forward.”

Fly-half Richard Butland is already pencilled in as one of the chosen few, having been awarded this week the first of the new sponsored scholarships at Bath University.

He again displayed the ambition and poise that Ashton is looking for – the coach even referred to his “Barry John-like” style of running.

But the technical errors that bedevilled the Bath performance also affected Butland. An ill-judged pass to flanker Ed Pearce under the Northampton posts led to a breakaway try for Nick Beal, although Butland, haring back, appeared to win the race to the touchdown.

Added to two earlier penalties by fly-half Alastair Hepher, that score put Saints 11-nil up at half-time.

Andy Nicol, who forged an effective half-back partnership with Butland, grabbed an opportunist try at a scrum on the line on 56 minutes with the fly-half adding the conversion.

But Hepher quickly added his third penalty and wing Craig Moir then romped 60 metres to score under the posts after Bath again lost possession in attack.

In a furious flourish, Pearce and the strong-running Fraser Waters

fashioned an impressive injury-time score for right wing Tony Iacano.

BATH FORM: experimental

SCORERS: 5 mins – Hepher pen, 3-nil; 18 mins – Hepher pen, 6-nil; 34 mins – Beal try, 11-nil (H-T); 56 mins – Nicol try, Butland conv, 11-7; 61 mins – Hepher pen, 14-7; 67 mins – Moir try, Hepher conv, 21-7; 83 mins – Iacano try, 21-12.

NORTHAMPTON: Beal; Moir, Allen, Beale (rep Thorneycroft, 30 mins), Morgan; Hepher, Taylor; Volland (rep Beddow, 26 mins), Johnson, Hynes, Phillips, Etheridge, Cassell, Barnes (rep Milhouse, 68 mins), Pountney.

BATH: Lumsden; Iacano, Webber, Waters, Adebayo (rep Johnson, 50 mins); Butland, Nicol; Yates, French, Crompton, Haag, Gillies, Vander, Amphlett, Pearce.

REFEREE: Brian Harris (Liverpool Soc.).

CONDITIONS: weather – overcast; pitch – good.

 

19/1/1996

v Moseley, Home. Won 21-11. Team:- Lumsden, Iacono, Webber, Seager, Blackett, Butland (T & 3c),Nicol (T), Clark, McCarthy, Crompton D (T), Calver, Redman, Robinson, Pearce, Amphlett.  Replacements –Johnson, Deane, Maslen, Nicholas  Ref – R Naish. Ground – Pretty good. Weather – Fine and dry

This evening friendly was another of the all running games we have grown used to, with the ref. struggling hard to stay up at times. Moseley really entered into the spirit and it was a pretty fun evening – riddled with mistakes as these games so often are, but entertaining nevertheless. Robinson was really outstanding both as captain and on the flank, and Butland is beginning to look a real cut above the rest.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

ANDY Robinson led Bath to victory with characteristic verve and commitment but his thoughts were already on next weekend’s Pilkington Cup tie at Wakefield.

The 31-year-old flanker eagerly accepted the chance to turn out against the Birmingham side.

“I felt I needed a game ahead of the cup-tie,” said Robinson. “Contact work in training is not the same as playing a match.

“And Moseley tackled well – we found it particularly difficult to break down their defence close to the line.”

Moseley, of course, are one of the few teams in the last decade to have knocked them out of the cup. Every Bath supporter remembers that fateful day, February 27, 1988.

So there always seems to be an extra competitive edge to these games, even Friday night friendlies.

The Rec faithful appeared to be in for a feast of rugby when fly-half Richard Butland sliced through for a try on four minutes. The chance came indirectly from a tapped penalty after an 80-metre move launched by Butland at the other end.

He converted his own try but Moseley, prompted by former Bristol scrum-half Mark Chudleigh, pulled back to within a point with two penalties by full-back Mike Dossett.

A frustrating period in which the referee’s whistle interrupted play at every turn was finally ended when Bath won a five-metre scrum and mauled their way over the line. Prop Darren Crompton got the touchdown and Butland again converted to leave Bath 14-6 up at the interval.

Two minutes into the second half, Robinson reacted quickest to a penalty award and his inside pass sent Andy Nicol scampering to the line for a try converted by Butland.

Improbably, that was Bath’s last score. It was Moseley who finished the scoring in the 53rd minute, Eral Anderson crossing in the right corner after good work by former Bath centre Rob Stuart and No 8 Simon Owen.

SCORERS: 4 mins – Butland try & conv, 7-nil; 10 mins – Dossett pen, 7-3; 13 mins – Dossett pen, 7-6; 34 mins – Crompton try, Butland conv, 14-6 (H-T); 42 mins – Nicol try, Butland conv, 21-6; 53 mins – Anderson try, 21-11.

BATH: Lumsden; Iacano, Webber, Seager, Blackett; Butland, Nicol; Clark, McCarthy, Crompton, Calver, Redman, Pearce, Amphlett, Robinson.

MOSELEY: Dossett; Anderson, Bonney, Stuart, Wilkinson; Walker, Chudleigh; McKinnon, Ball, Webber, Fletcher, Bright, Johal (rep Holland, 50 mins), Owen, Ord (rep Poll, 42 mins).

REFEREE: Roger Naish (Berkshire)

 

2/2/1996

v Swansea, Away. Lost 10-27. Team:- Seager, Blackett, Webber, Perry, Iacono, Book (1c & 1p),Harrison, Yates, French, Crompton D, Haag (Capt), Calver, Vander (T), Pearce, Ojomoh.  Replacements – Mallett came on for Yates  Ref – Peter Rees. Ground – Hard. Weather – Freezing

Despite their continuing intention to run with the ball, Bath failed on their attempt to take away Swansea’s unbeaten home record this season. A largely very young and inexperienced Bath team ultimately gave in to the greater speed and power of the Swansea backs. The pack apparently took the honours, and Charlie Harrison at scrum half had an encouraging debut.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

JOHN Mallett finished on the losing side but the most important thing was that he had actually played a game of rugby – even if it was for only 25 minutes.

When the England prop came on as replacement for Kevin Yates, it was his first game at senior level since his international debut against Western Samoa during the World Cup.

But the 25-year-old schoolteacher was soon struck down by a back complaint which has ruined his season.

“It’s been a nightmare,” he said. “But it’s good to be back again.

“All I’m looking to do now is get a few first team games under my belt and take it from there.”

Sensibly enough, Mallett is making no predictions about how soon he can fight his way back into the England side.

“There’s plenty of competition at Bath for me to worry about before I can start thinking about England – but they know what I can do.”

It was also an important day for 20-year-old Bath University student Charlie Harrison who made a promising debut at scrum-half.

The last time Bath faced Swansea they hammered the Welshmen 79-3 on the Rec. Three years later Bath again appeared to have the edge up front but made too many errors to make that possession count.

In fact the scoreline flattered ultimately the visitors who managed only one try to Swansea’s five.

The first came after just seven minutes when hooker Euros Evans broke through from a maul and No 8 Dean Thomas was in support to send scrum-half Daniel Hawkins over for a try converted by Lee Davies.

Bath began in typically adventurous fashion but with the veteran Clive Book at fly-half lacked a cutting edge and, in their desperation, too often dropped passes or gifted possession.

Book did kick a penalty after strong running by Darren Crompton, Yates and Adam Vander but Swansea hit back almost immediately through flanker Colin Charvis.

A 12-3 half-time deficit became 17-3 after 54 minutes when wing Warren Leech beat Yates on the touchline to score the third try. Davies missed the conversion but added a penalty on 68 minutes.

Vander was driven over the line for the only Bath try shortly afterwards and Book converted but impressive scrum-half Hawkins grabbed his second at the end, also converted.

SCORERS: 7 mins – Hopkins try, Davies conv, 7-nil; 32 mins – Book pen, 7-3; 36 mins – Charvis try, 12-3 (H-T); 54 mins – Leech try, 17-3; 68 mins – Davies pen, 20-3; 74 mins – Vander try, Book conv, 20-10; 78 mins – Hawkins try, Davies conv, 27-10.

SWANSEA: Boobyer; Leech, Taylor, Weatherley, H Thomas; Davies, Hawkins; Davis (rep Buckett, 58 mins), Evans, Colclough, M Evans (rep S Thomas, 63 mins), Moriarty, Charvis, D Thomas, Field.

BATH: Seager; Iacano, Webber, Perry, Adebayo; Book, Harrison; Yates (rep Mallett, 56 mins), French, Crompton, Haag, Calver, Ojomoh, Pearce, Vander.

REFEREE: Peter Rees (Llandovery).

 

10/2/1996

v Wakefield, Away. Won 16-12. Team:- Callard (2p), Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott (T), Adebayo, Butland (T), Sanders, Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Peters, Clarke.  Replacements – Harrison, French, Ojomoh   Ref – Ashley Rowden. Ground – Gluey. Weather – Overcast

This game – postponed from late January because of snow – was never going to be easy. But there was no excuse for Bath making it as difficult as they did. They were awful. And hardly anyone escapes criticism, except possibly Sleightholme, Butland, Haag and, in flashed Guscott. The pack never fired as a unit, with Ben Clarke having one of his worse days, and Sanders a nightmare. Wakefield were robbed by a try by Butland in the dying seconds, but they deserved to win, especially with the outstanding Scully at scrum half and some good goal kicking by Jackson at full back. I will never come to terms with Ashley Rowden’s refereeing. This was the first game where Catt opted to play in the United.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

FOR sheer dramatic effect, Richard Butland’s last-minute try was straight out of the Stuart Barnes repertoire.

Barnes got Bath out of some tight corners – notably with that dropped goal in the 1992 cup final – and Butland appears to have inherited that match-winning knack along with the No 10 shirt.

Just 35 seconds of normal time remained on the clock when he swivelled out of a tackle and flopped over the try-line.

Even Bath, masters of the Great Escape, have seldom come as close to such a humiliating defeat, one that would have gone down in cup history with Moseley ’88 and Waterloo three years ago.

Butland, now first-choice following Mike Catt’s decision to contest the full-back spot, said: “We like to try to hit the line quickly but we hadn’t had much opportunity to do it for most of the game.

“It just happened to come in the last minute or so. We were shocking but we got through it. To be fair to Wakefield, they played very well and came at us with all cylinders firing.

“But we kept our heads, stuck at it and in the end our experience told.”

In fact Bath looked dead and buried when yet another dangerous attack resulted in yet another penalty conceded, giving Wakefield a chance to clear their lines.

But hooker Terry Garnett, one of their most inspiring figures, then deliberately delayed his throw-in and was penalised for timewasting. The consequences will haunt him for the rest of his career.

Bath fed Eric Peters on the charge, launched Jon Callard from the ruck and when he was stopped on the line, Butland forced his way over on the blindside. Callard missed the conversion but Bath had done enough.

As the final whistle blew on Wakefield’s brave effort, Garnett sank to his knees in despair. It was no consolation that England wing Jon Sleightholme immediately went into the home dressing room to tell his ex-teammates that it was the best performance he had seen from a Wakefield team.

You could hardly say the same of Bath, whose error-strewn display dismayed coach Brian Ashton. “That was a disappointing performance, to say the least,” he said. “We were very lucky to get away with a win in the end.”

In the opening seconds, Ben Clarke ominously dropped a straightforward pass and within two minutes Wakefield skipper Mike Jackson had kicked the first of his four penalties.

Callard missed a relatively simple effort from the restart but managed to level the scores after 10 minutes as Bath battled their way up the slope.

Although there were flashes of the cup holders’ best form, too often the telling pass went to ground or the forwards failed to recycle the ball quickly enough.

Callard and Jackson swapped penalties at the end of the first quarter before Bath created a try from nothing, Jeremy Guscott featuring as both creator and finisher.

It was actually started by Sleightholme, retrieving a loose ball in midfield and linking with Graham Dawe, Clarke and Guscott, whose infield break opened up the defence. He found Sleightholme, Andy Robinson and Clarke again in support before taking the return pass to score.

Jackson’s third penalty after 28 minutes reduced the lead to two points and that is how it stayed for more than half an hour.

Several times it appeared Bath must score but too often they ran aimlessly into touch or into a clutch of eager Wakefield tacklers.

With Jackson’s fourth penalty, the Yorkshiremen were suddenly a point in front and, cheered on by the full house of 3,000 at College Grove, they really believed they could pull it off.

Even now, Wakefield cannot believe how the biggest scalp of them all slipped from their grasp.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – 3 stars

BATH FORM: ring-rusty

SCORERS: 2 mins – Jackson pen, 3-nil; 10 mins – Callard pen, 3-3; 17 mins – Callard pen, 3-6; 21 mins – Jackson pen, 6-6; 22 mins – Guscott try, 6-11; 28 mins – Jackson pen, 9-11 (H-T); 64 mins – Jackson pen, 12-11; 80 mins – Butland try, 12-16.

WAKEFIELD: Jackson; White, Maynard, Metcalfe, Thompson; Petyt, Scully; Baldwin, Garnett, Latham, Croft, Stewart, Rushworth, Green, Griffiths.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Butland, Sanders; Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Peters, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: Ashley Rowden (Berkshire).

CONDITIONS: weather – dry; pitch – sandy.

 

17/2/1996

v Wasps, Home. Won 36-12. Team:- Callard (4c & 1p), Sleightholme (T), de Glanville (T), Catt, Adebayo, Butland, Nicol (T), Yates (T), Dawe (T), Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Sanders, McCarthy, Clark replaced Ubogu (77 mins), Pearce  Ref – B Campsall. Ground – Firm. Weather – Fine/Overcast

What a tremendous game! The first 20 minutes must be the best display seen on The Rec for many a year. The entire 15 put on a great show to dispel the gloom of the Wakefield game. Catt playing back at his (I think) best position with the injury to Guscott and Callard back at full back, despite having been temporarily displaced to United. Wasps played enterprising open rugby too and helped to make this the spectacle it was. Invidious to pick out any individual – they were all tremendous.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BRISTOL spies hoping to spot chinks in the Bath armour ahead of next weekend’s cup tie will have come away from the Rec with precious little good news.

The league leaders were unrecognisable from the side that struggled to overcome Second Division cup opponents Wakefield just a week before.

This was probably the best Courage League match ever seen at Bath, and Wasps must take their share of the credit.

Even their coach, Rob Smith, was more delighted with the spectacle than disappointed at the result. “I am very pleased. It reflects great credit on both teams and the referee – great fun.”

But for all their enterprise and spirit, the Londoners never really recovered from Bath’s astonishing opening burst of two tries in the first six minutes. And after half an hour they trailed 26-nil.

Bath coach Brian Ashton, not usually one to lavish praise, said: “It’s a joy to watch a match like that, where both sides are prepared to play the game the way it was devised to be played.

“For 20-25 minutes, we played some of the best rugby I’ve ever seen on the Rec. We tore the opposition apart. We weren’t going to carry on like that, for a variety of reasons, but that’s the standard we set ourselves now.

“I think we moved up a gear in the first 20 minutes, above anything we’ve played this season, even the Bristol game, which people keep talking about. This was better rugby.”

And all this was achieved without Jeremy Guscott, who pulled out at the 11th hour with a shoulder injury. In the reshuffle, Jon Callard returned at full-back and Mike Catt switched to centre.

Catt, for all his desire to turn out for Bath in his England position of full-back, may eventually discover that centre is his best position. All pace and purpose, he very nearly scored himself in the first minute, only to be forced into the corner flag.

From the 22 drop-out, Andy Nicol eventually sped down the short side to create a try for Graham Dawe.

More than five minutes passed before Wasps touched the ball in play, but they lost it again within three seconds and Bath fashioned a stunning try for Jon Sleightholme.

It was Catt’s acceleration and an inch-perfect pass that created it, allowing the England wing to take the ball at full stretch. Even from 50 metres out it was a try all the way.

Wasps’ first attack almost produced a score for full-back Jon Ufton after 15 minutes and they continued to hammer away, only to be let down by poor passing and over-eagerness.

When Bath returned to the attack, loosehead Kevin Yates burrowed through for another try and Jon Callard kicked his third conversion to make it 21-nil.

Two minutes later, the skipper was on the score sheet too. Phil de Glanville collected a bouncing ball in his own half and, using Sleightholme as decoy, weaved his way to the line with deceptive speed.

By far the best performer on the Wasps side was scrum-half Andy Gomarsall, who grabbed an opportunist try from a tapped penalty just before half-time.

That gave his forwards the encouragement they needed and Bath were on the back foot for much of the third quarter, eventually conceding a penalty try by collapsing a scrum.

But for all the efforts of Dallaglio & Co up front, Wasps did not have the pace outside the scrum to stretch the Bath defence to breaking point.

Instead Callard replied with a penalty and Nicol also capped his best game for Bath by diving into the back of a retreating Wasps scrum to claim a try again converted by the full-back.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – five stars

BATH FORM: unstoppable

SCORERS: 2 mins – Dawe try, Callard conv, 7-nil; 6 mins – Sleightholme try, Callard conv, 14-nil; 29 mins – Yates try, Callard conv, 21-nil; 31 mins – de Glanville try, 26-nil; 38 mins – Gomarsall try, 26-5 (H-T); 56 mins – penalty try, Gregory conv, 26-12; 61 mins – Callard pen, 29-12; 75 mins – Nicol try, Callard conv, 36-12.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Catt, Adebayo; Butland, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Ubogu (rep Clark, 76 mins), Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

WASPS: Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, James, Roiser; Gregory, Gomarsall; Molloy, Dunn, Dunston, Greenwood, Kinsey, White, Scrivener, Dallaglio.

REFEREE: Brian Campsall (Yorkshire).

CONDITIONS: weather – overcast; pitch – good.

 

24/2/1996

v Bristol, Away. Won 19-12. Team:- Catt, Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo, Butland (1c & 4p), Nicol, Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke (T).

Replacements – Harrison, French, Crompton, Callard

Ref – J Pearson. Ground – Sticky mud. Weather – Overcast

Yet another Bath/Bristol cup game! The score does not really indicate Bath’s superiority. Catt replaced Callard at full back, to the chagrin of most of Bath. He was just about OK. Luckily Butland played a blinder. Others showing up well were Nicol, Dawe, Ojomoh and Robinson.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BRISTOL’S top players will return to the scene of their predictable Pilkington Cup quarter-final defeat tonight for a meeting of monumental significance.

And as captain Paul Hull instructed them to “put their cards on the table” forward warhorse Phil Adams made a rallying cry that stirred the blood.

“Players like me need the international stars to stay,” said Adams, an inspired pack leader who typified a battling Bristol performance built on raw courage and ferocious commitment.

Adams, 33 this week, added: I’m not here for the money but what I can see is the nucleus of a quality side.

“We hurt Bath today. We hit rucks and mauls at pace and refused to be intimidated by them. Nobody wanted to lie down and let them swarm all over us.

“There are six internationals at this club. David Corkery is coming and we’ve got two centres who are playing out of their skins.

“If these boys decide to up and go, then it will be absolutely devastating.”

Early indications suggest they won’t – current England stars Mark Regan and Kyran Bracken backing Hull’s call for calm and unity.

Hooker Regan was at his pugnacious best, taking everything arch-rival Graham Daw could throw at him, even managing a strike against the head when the front rows locked with frightening intensity ten minutes from time.

Bracken tackled as if his life depended on it, making a stamina-sapping contribution which ridiculed those who believe his international career may have reached a premature end.

“There is a strong base at this club,” said the scrum-half, whose credentials as a future Bristol captain received glowing confirmation.

“I’d like to think that the key players will stay here this season, although we’ll have to wait and see what Bristol are offering before anyone can make a definite decision.”

Regan pledged: “I won’t be leaving Bristol – I am a Bristol boy through and through, living and working in the city.

“The lads really stuck at it today, and with a bit more self-belief we can go places. Personally, I was never going to let Graham Dawe get the better of me – no chance.”

Given the absence of towering forwards Garath Archer and Martin Corry – two central figures in tonight’s discussions – Bristol’s resilience often bordered on the heroic.

None more so than Alan Sharp, who defied an untimely bout of flu that almost saw him withdraw from the match on Saturday morning, and second row replacement Mark Fountaine.

Once again, Sharp destroyed hapless front row opponent Victor Ubogu, while Fountaine – one of three Bristol United skippers on duty in an injury ravaged pack – never looked off the pace.

Fountaine was thrown into the Memorial Ground cauldron inside six minutes when emergency lock Bob Armstrong had his nose broken by a punch.

The former Royal Marines heavyweight boxing champion went straight to hospital, leaving erratic referee Jim Pearson to sort out several early skirmishes which brought a yellow card for Adams.

“It was a straightforward punch, but that’s part and parcel of the game. It will teach me to keep my head down,” said Armstrong who had a tooth knocked out in similar circumstances when the sides last clashed four months ago.

As a spectacle, this sixth cup meeting will not linger long in the memory, although a capacity 10,000 crowd did its utmost to raise both teams. Bath never remotely hit top gear, yet the tireless efforts of scrum-half Andy Nicol kept them going and forward and guaranteed that their early ten-point lead was not seriously threatened.

The decisive try was a direct product of Bristol’s only missed tackle of note – Mike Catt skirting round Eben Rollitt to feed inevitable Bath linkman Andy Robinson and Jon Sleightholme was in support to send Ben Clarke over in the corner.

Fly-half Richard Butland’s first half penalty hat-trick was just reward for considerable territorial dominance, yet dangerous Bath runners like Jeremy Guscott, Phil de Glanville and Sleightholme could never shake off the leech-like Bristol defenders.

England wing Sleightholme had an afternoon to forget, looking shaky under the high ball as Arwel Thomas sent a succession of “bombs” in his direction.

Generally though, Thomas’s tactical kicking was not what you would associate with such a precocious talent high on confidence after his Five Nations exploits.

The Welshman landed all Bristol’s points – Butland matched him kick for kick as they shared eight penalties on the back of Mr Pearson’s prolific arm signals and an eye for detail.

Bristol botched their best chance of the game, missing out Hull after he had entered a promising three-quarter move with the sole intent of sending overlapping wing Ben Breeze across for a try. There were to be no second opportunities as Bath comfortably completed one of those routine days at the office.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

Bristol form: Courageous

Bath form: Focused

SCORERS: 6 mins – Butland pen, nil-3; 14 mins – Clarke try, Butland conv, nil-10; 19 mins – Thomas pen, 3-10; 22 mins – Butland pen, 3-13; 25 mins – Thomas pen, 6-13; 30 mins – Butland pen, 6-16 (H-T); 52 mins – Thomas pen, 9-16; 56 mins – Butland pen, 9-19; 80 mins – Thomas pen, 12-19.

BRISTOL: Hull; Breeze, Martin, Maggs, G Sharp; Thomas, Bracken; A Sharp, Regan, Hinkins, Adams, Armstrong (rep Fountaine, 6 mins); Barrow, Rollitt, Dixon.

BATH: Catt; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Butland, Nicol; Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Clarke, Robinson.

REFEREE: John Pearson (Durham).

CONDITIONS: weather – dry, cloudy; pitch – soft.

BATH, Courage League leaders and Pilkington Cup semi-finalists, are looking to build the most formidable squad in Europe.

That was the ominous warning from Director of Rugby John Hall after his side completed a routine cup victory over Bristol on Saturday.

And Hall also slammed critics who, he claims, are trying to paint a “negative” picture about Britain’s most successful club in more than a decade.

“I keep reading stories about cash-strapped Bath but the amount of interest in terms of investment is phenomenal,” Hall revealed.

“I accept that as a club we were probably a bit slow to react when rugby turned professional, yet everything has now been looked at in great detail.

“We have an extraordinary general meeting of members on March 11, and I believe that will be the turning point,” he added.

“As a club, we are financially very strong. On the playing side, we intend having the most formidable rugby squad in European rugby.”

Hall said Bath were reasonably satisfied with the manner of their seven-point victory believing that his side had never looked like losing.

“After the first five minutes I was confident we would win. It was more a case of in how much style. If we had tightened up a little bit on the basics, then maybe we could have run away with it.”

Scrum-half Andy Nicol, Bath’s most effective player, claimed it had been a frustrating afternoon.

“We knocked a few balls on and didn’t play too well but cup rugby is all about winning,” he said.

Bristol had few complaints, coach Brian Hanlon delighted that his injury-crippled team had stuck admirably to their game plan.

“Our defence was quite impeccable, especially the first-up tackling,” he said.

“Bath were a lot better than us in terms of individual skills but felt proud of our youngsters and the way in which they coped.”

Hanlon revealed that flu victim Alan Sharp had asked to be relieved of pack leadership duties following discussions on Saturday morning, signalling promotion for Adams.

“Alan felt he could only give 50 per cent, but the fact that he stayed on and played exceptionally well and was a huge bonus for us. It could have been catastrophic had he gone off.”

Young centre Kevin Maggs admitted Bristol’s lack of quality possession meant they could never play the game on equal terms.

“We needed more quick ball but had to live off scraps. We wanted to keep it tight and just wait for our chances, but they never came,” he said.

“Bath could have destroyed us today but everyone raised their game and pride and passion got us through in the end.”

Bristol captain Paul Hull predicted a healthy future for the club despite their suffering a 15th consecutive defeat at the hands of their neighbours.

“When everyone is back to full fitness we will be a force to be reckoned with,” said the full-back.

 

15/3/1996

v Pontypridd, Away. Lost 14-22. Team:- Lumsden, Cook (2c), Webber, Seager, Blackett (T), Perry (T), Nicol, Hilton, French, Crompton, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Pearce, Peters.Replacements – Olsen, Atkins, Clark, Maslen, Croves, Blackmore replaced Seager

This evening friendly was apparently played at a cracking pace with both sides, depleted as they were by representative call-ups, prepared to run the ball and entertain. Debutants for the Bath XV included Jeremy Cook, from Millfield, who had previously impressed in the United. Try of the match was scored by Matt Perry.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

NINETEEN-year-old fly-half Matt Perry might have won the game for Bath with a spectacular try but it was his missed tackle that let Pontypridd regain the upper hand.

Perry, never afraid to run at the opposition, could not believe his luck when a yawning gap opened up on the short side after 55 minutes.

He was through it in an instant and even though he had more than 40 metres to run, full-back Gavin Jones could not lay a hand on the teenager as he crossed at the corner.

Millfield schoolboy Jeremy Cooke, handed the goalkicking duties on his first team debut on the right wing, struck the conversion perfectly and Bath were 14-8 ahead.

But in the 67th minute, Perry’s inexperience showed as Ponty centre Steele Lewis cruised past him on the home 22.

The home backs had got little right on the night but this time they made the break count as impressive flanker Martyn Williams came up in support to carry the attack into the Bath half.

For once, there were not enough Bath defenders to snuff out the attack and wing Geraint Lewis took an inside pass to score under the posts.

The conversion by Gavin Jones gave Pontypridd a one-point lead which was not added to until injury time when Steele Lewis took a crash ball to score from a close-range penalty.

Acting Bath skipper Andy Robinson was not too despondent.

“Three missed tackles provided them with their tries, but the young lads in the backs generally defended very well, particularly in the 20 minutes after half-time.

“But they need to play more often with an experienced threequarter alongside them, someone like Phil de Glanville. Ed Pearce had a much better game on the flank tonight because he had better players around him.”

Robinson was clearly frustrated at the referee’s inability to enforce the offside law around the rucks and mauls.

And Mr Davies certainly seemed keener to penalise the technical offences than to ensure that the backs had room to move.

That’s not to deny that Bath made too many errors, particularly in the first half when possession was scarce.

Pontypridd took the lead after four minutes with a close range try by lock Paul Owen and then made it 8-nil with a Jones penalty.

No 8 Eric Peters, having one of his most effective games for Bath, pulled them back into the game with a charge down the left which led to a line-out. He caught and drove and eventually Bath worked Pete Blackett under the posts, with Cooke converting.

SCORERS: 4 mins – Owen try, 5-nil; 19 mins – Jones pen, 8-nil; 29 mins – Blackett try, Cooke conv, 8-7 (H-T); 55 mins – Perry try, Cooke conv, 8-14; 67 mins – Geraint Lewis try, Jones conv, 15-14; Steele Lewis try, Jones conv, 22-14.

PONTYPRIDD: Jones; Manley, J Lewis (rep S McIntosh, 70 mins), S Lewis, G Lewis; Cormack, Lloyd; Bezani, John, Eynon, Rowley, Owen (rep Prosser, 48 mins), Spiller, Lloyd (rep D McIntosh, 46 mins), Williams.

BATH: Lumsden; Cooke, Webber, Seager, Blackett; Perry, Nicol; Hilton, French, Crompton, Haag, Redman, Pearce, Peters, Robinson.

REFEREE: Haydn Davies (Bethesda).

 

19/3/1996

v The Army, Home. Lost 16-27 Team:- Lumsden; Cook, Waters, Perry, Blackett; Knight (rep Groves, 46 mins), Olsen; Yates, French, Mallett, James, Reed, Nicholas, Peters, Pearce. Replacements – Groves, Atkins, Crompton D, Amphlett  Ref – Peter Facey. Ground – Good. Weather – Cold

This evening game, one of the few friendlies left in the crowded calendar, was played at great pace and with great commitment by a fit army squad. The Bath XV, despite containing a strong pack with many ‘stars’, never looked like breaking out, except when they kept it tight and used their superior mauling to trundle down the pitch. The backs, with one or two exceptions, never really snapped and the terrier-like tackling from the opposition never allowed a clear passageway for the three-quarters. It was good to see Olsen and Reed back after injury – the former looked sharp, the latter was feeling the strain by the end.

Bath fielded three full internationals and two England A caps but it was not enough to subdue a fired-up Army XV.

It all looked so easy at first as Audley Lumsden dotted the ball down in the right corner with a minute on the clock, finishing off good work by young centres Matt Perry and Fraser Waters.

But half the Army side had triumphed at the Rec in the corresponding fixture last season and that gave them the confidence to take the game straight back to Bath.

With Scotland lock Andy Reed making his first senior appearance for 15 months, Bath might have expected to take control but the Army pack and especially their defence held firm.

England A prop Kevin Yates made some impression with a succession of drives but, when the ball was released, there was little space for the backs to exploit.

John Mallett salvaged some pride for Bath by scrambling over in the closing minutes but by that stage the game had been lost.

Bath Scorers: Lumsden and Mallett tries. Jeremy Cook scored two penalties.

(source:- Kevin Coughlan, Bristol Evening Post – condensed report)

 

23/3/1996

v Gloucester, Home. Won 19-10. Team:- Callard (1c & 4p), Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo (T), Catt, Nicol, Hilton, Dawe, Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Sanders, McCarthy replaced Dawe (40 mins), Mallett, Peters, Reed, Lumsden  Ref – Ed Morrison. Ground – A bit tacky. Weather – Dry, warmer and even a bit of sun!

Heavens, I hate Cup games! They are always too steamed up for comfort. Bath started off in great style, and when Adebayo scored a scorching try down the wing at the start of the second half, we ought to have been home and dry. However, Gloucester started to show what great improvements they have made since the advent of Richard Hill and put Bath under some fairly severe pressure. Bath’s class told in the end. Callard back in the side, thank goodness, as Butland has a rib injury, and he played impeccably. Now for Leicester in the Final!

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

NIGEL Redman achieved a perfect 10 on Saturday, putting Bath’s most decorated cup warrior in the mood for another successful Tiger hunt.

And Redman is confident Bath can take Twickenham by storm once again, preserving their status as cup final invincibles.

The long-serving lock says Bath will be ready for anything – even a repeat of 1994 when Leicester hurled a brick through English rugby’s shop window.

Tigers’ negative tactics appalled an expectant full house, who were left short-changed despite second-half tries from Tony Swift and Mike Catt.

Irresistible force meets immovable object again on May 4 – a 76,000 sell-out crowd guaranteed, even if entertaining rugby isn’t.

But Redman, poised to break Richard Hill’s club record of eight Twickenham appearances, believes the ball is firmly in Bath’s court.

And that will mean a considerable improvement on Saturday’s stuttering display against Gloucester at a subdued Recreation Ground.

Redman, his tenth semi-final in 13 seasons safely negotiated, offered a typically honest assessment of the league and cup challenge awaiting England’s top team.

“It is very difficult to restart our season after so many players have been away on international duty,” said the 31-year-old.

“We probably didn’t do enough to prepare properly but we needed this game to get back into our rhythm and give us a launch-pad for six remaining league matches and a cup final.

Bath, 19-3 ahead after wing Adedayo Adebayo’s wonder try on 41 minutes, lost their way as Gloucester played with the pride, passion and purpose that coaching director Hill promised they would.

Three missed kicks by full-back Mark Mapletoft and fly-half Martyn Kimber, all during a one-sided second period, proved crucial.

Bath, who sorely missed hooker Graham Dawe’s motivational powers when he went off injured just before the break, weren’t quite left hanging on. But captain Phil de Glanville for once had more questions than answers to ponder.

“We showed our rustiness in the second half, losing possession too much in contact and generally lacking direction,” he said. “But when you consider how few games we’ve played recently, I thought the general performance was better than it could have been.”

Full-back Jon Callard kicked four penalties for a comfortable interval lead. Kimber’s dropped goal apart, Gloucester hardly threatened to trouble the scorers, and they looked down and out when England A flyer Adebayo struck.

Quick passing from scrum-half Andy Nicol, through de Glanville, Jeremy Guscott and Callard set Adebayo off on a scorching 60-metre sprint.

He bowled over opposite number Mike Peters, almost losing his balance in the process, but Gloucester’s despairing defenders couldn’t nudge him into touch.

Just when Bath thought they were clear and coasting, sloppy work at the restart forfeited a penalty which allowed England Under-21 scrum-half Scott Benton to dart over.

After Mapletoft’s conversion, Gloucester concentrated on kicking to the corners. It would have been enough to beat most sides, but not Bath.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

BATH FORM: patchy.

SCORERS: 2 mins – Callard pen, 3-nil; 12 mins – Kimber dropped goal, 3-3; 15 mins – Callard pen, 6-3; 25 mins – Callard pen, 9-3; 36 mins – Callard pen, 12-3 (H-T); 41 mins – Adebayo try, Callard conv, 19-3; 43 mins – Benton try, Mapletoft conv, 19-10.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Nicol; Hilton, Dawe (rep McCarthy, 39 mins), Ubogu, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Clarke, Ojomoh.

GLOUCESTER: Mapletoft; Peters, Caskie, Roberts, Lloyd; Kimber, Benton (rep Fenley, 66 mins); Windo, Greening, Deacon, Fidler, Sims, Glanville, Raymond, Smith.

REFEREE: Ed Morrison (Bristol).

CONDITIONS: weather – dry and mild; pitch – soft.

RICHARD Hill tips Bath to complete a hat-trick of Pilkington Cup final victories when they face Leicester at Twickenham on May 4.

The Gloucester coach believes his former club’s faith in 15-man rugby will see them through.

“The problem against Leicester is to keep possession away from their pack and Bath should have too much firepower all round,” he said.

Back on Bath soil for the first time since quitting as chairman of selectors six months ago, Hill masked his huge disappointment to salute Phil de Glanville’s team.

“In the wide open spaces of Twickenham, Bath can attack from deep positions, and Leicester could have problems defending against that,” he added.

Despite the victory, Bath were downbeat.

Rugby director John Hall said: “That kind of display won’t be good enough to beat Leicester. I am not satisfied, coach Brian Ashton is not satisfied and neither are the players.

“There is a lot of work to be done but we are still firmly on course for the double and will look to regroup in training this week.”

Flanker Andy Robinson said Bath’s problems in the front row had compounded matters elsewhere.

“We’ve got to look at the scrummage, because the disruption there meant we couldn’t launch any worthwhile back row moves,” he said. Prop Dave Hilton agreed that the whole Bath forward effort had been below par: “The pack suffered a bad day but we hardly had ideal preparation for a cup semi-final.”

 

30/3/1996

v Bristol, Away. Won 43-5.  Team:- Callard (4c), Lumsden (T), de Glanville (T), Guscott (Tx2), Geoghegan (Tx2), Catt, Nicol, Hilton (T), Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Clarke.  Replacements – Olsen, French, Yates, Webber  Ref – S Lander. Ground – Good and fast. Weather – Fine but cold

An overwhelming performance by Bath really showed up what a troubled outfit Bristol are. Despite the plethora of tries, I was left with a slightly uncomfortable feeling, as it was a bad-tempered game and Bristol’s only line of defence seemed to be to take Bath players out. Their backs were truly awful and looked as though they had never met each other before. Bath were superb in all facets, with Catt showing great invention at fly half and Geoghegan scoring two welcome tries in one of his all to unfamiliar appearances. de Glanville supreme as always.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

ALAN Davies took a deep breath, surveyed the wreckage of Bristol’s record Courage League defeat, and admitted: “There is an awful lot to be done.”

On Saturday’s shocking Memorial Ground evidence, he faces a bigger rebuilding job than the one Wales presented him with five years ago.

Davies came through it then, despite inheriting struggling, shell-shocked players who overcame all odds to lift the 1994 Five Nations title.

But transforming Bristol will obviously test every ounce of his considerable coaching and motivational skills.

This was far more than a spectacular seven-try thrashing – Bristol were humiliated by a team who possessed total command of every rugby skill in the book.

From front row to full-back, Bath reigned supreme, making it an astonishing 114 points and 16 tries in three derby meetings this season.

Coach-elect Davies did not hide behind such damning statistics, which suggest that Bristol are probably further behind their illustrious neighbours than ever before.

“Bath were far superior in the scrummage, and that had a big effect on the game,” he said. “There is an awful lot of work to be done on getting the basics right and we will have to strengthen the squad.

“The players also need to be more streetwise,” he added.

Scrum-half Kyran Bracken echoed Davies’s sentiments, envying the quality ball that opposite number Andy Nicol rifled out all afternoon.

“Bath were on fire. I don’t think there are many sides around who could have lived with that performance,” he said. “We lost so much possession in tackle and turnover positions which meant Bath were constantly running at a broken defence.”

And how Bath ran, inspired by a majestic performance from Mike Catt that produced the very best from centres Jeremy Guscott and Phil de Glanville.

Guscott’s second try – his fifth against Bristol this term – had ‘world class’ stamped all over it.

Catt turned the Bristol defence on a sixpence, sprinted clear from half-way before hurling a bullet-type pass into Guscott’s midriff as he cruised up outside the fly-half.

The whole move took less than 15 seconds but was light years away from anything Bristol could even have attempted, much less executed.

Their problems started and finished up front where Dave Hilton destroyed young tighthead Kris Fullman as John Mallett did an equally impressive job on Alan Sharp.

England lock Garath Archer made little impact, apart from collecting his third yellow card of the season and a possible ban, while flanker Martin Corry came off second best in several shuddering midfield collisions with Steve Ojomoh.

Only No 8 Craig Barrow genuinely looked the part, but all too often found himself isolated in broken play where Bath invariably mopped up possession.

It was a similar tale of woe behind the scrum, Bristol scrabbing sideways rather than surging forward, although young centre Kevin Maggs shone again.

There was no love lost between Maggs and de Glanville and one second-half scuffle forced an irate Bath skipper off for treatment to a head wound.

Bristol were desperately short of the controlled aggression required to compete with Bath, yet they harboured genuine beliefs of victory during last week’s build-up.

Simon Geoghegan brought them down to earth inside six minutes, round off a simple move after Martin Haag and Andy Robinson had done the spade work.

Although full-back Jon Callard missed three penalty chances, Bath still turned round 19-nil ahead after beautifully crafted tries for de Glanville and Guscott.

The killer blow came on 43 minutes when Callard cleverly switched direction in the shadow of Bristol’s posts, fed Guscott and right wing Audley Lumsden took his well-timed pass.

As Bristol’s consolation try scorer admitted, it became a damage limitation exercise after that.

At 26-nil, it was obvious there would be no way back. We were up against a superior side,” he said. A long pass from Catt to No 8 Ben Clarke opened the defence up for Geoghegan’s second after 52 minutes and Catt’s marvellous break put Guscott away seven minutes later.

A chip and chase by Catt, undid the Bristol defence a seventh time and Callard, Dawe and Nicol linked to put a jubilant Hilton over in the corner. And the parting shot from Bath, courtesy of coach Brian Ashton? “There is more to come.”

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – four stars

BRISTOL FORM: arthritic

BATH FORM: thoroughbred

SCORERS: 6 mins – Geoghegan try, Callard conv, nil-7; mins – Callard try, nil-12; 36 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, nil-19 (H-T); 43 mins – Lumsden try, Callard conv, nil-26; 53 mins – Geoghegan try, nil-31; 59 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, nil-38; 66 mins – Hilton try, nil-43; 74 mins – Thomas try, 5-43.

BRISTOL: Hull; Breeze, Tiueti, Maggs, Keyter; Thomas, Bracken; Sharp, Lathrope, Fullman, Adams, Archer, Corry, Barrow, Dixon.

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Guscott, Geoghegan; Catt, Nicol; Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Clarke, Ojomoh.

REFEREE: Steve Lander (Cheshire).

CONDITIONS: weather – fine; pitch – firm.

6/4/1996

v Harlequins, Home. Won 41-15. Team:- Callard (1c & 6p), Sleightholme (T), de Glanville (T), Guscott (T), Adebayo, Catt (1dg), Nicol (1dg), Yates, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Peters.  Replacements – Sanders, McCarthy, Lumsden, Pearce  Ref – J Pearson. Ground – Fast. Weather – Perfect

Wow! What a game. Harlequins went off at a cracking pace and caught Bath cold, and were soon leading 12-3. Callard slowly clawed us back and soon after the interval we levelled at 15-15. From then on, it was all Bath, with the most complete display of ‘total rugby’ yet seen. We were magnificent! All of them. Invidious to single out anyone really, but the pack were superb, as were de G. and Catt. Let’s hope for some more games like this one.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

NO-ONE should doubt now that when Bath return to another full house at the Rec on April 27 to face Sale, it will be to confirm their status as England’s champion club.

Three away wins over the next 12 days will all but seal their sixth title in eight years – with every prospect of a fourth league and cup “double” as well.

As ever, Gloucester will pose a formidable physical test on Wednesday night but Bath are showing too much class for there to be a realistic chance of an upset at Kingsholm – or at Saracens and Orrell on the next two Saturdays.

An average of 33 points a game over the 14 Courage League matches, with 52 tries scored, says it all.

Yet Phil de Glanville and his players will admit they were given one hell of a shock in the opening 15 minutes as Quins exploded into action. It was easy to see how they had scored 22 tries and 146 points in their two previous outings.

Their first score, by former Bristol scrum-half Rob Kitchin, was an opportunist effort at a ruck close to the line but the second, from Paul Challinor, was a score their hosts would have been proud of.

Adedayo Adebayo lost the ball in a fierce challenge by No 8 Mick Watson and Quins exploited space on the left with some deft interpassing before Peter Mensah eventually put Challinor over.

At 12-3 down, Bath appeared stunned by the sheer impudence of it all. With Rory Jenkins and Watson making the big tackles and the Londoners’ backs running with pace and purpose, the league leaders looked decidedly vulnerable.

But 12 years at the top has bred a mental toughness which enables Bath teams to shrug off such setbacks and come back even stronger. The retribution was savage in its intensity.

Nigel Redman set the example with a shuddering tackle on Jenkins and his fellow forwards took the cue, assuming control of the line-out and then the loose to suck the life-force out of the Quins pack.

Again they owed much to the goalkicking of Jon Callard who, apart from one bad miss from 20 metres, hauled Bath back into the game with six penalties.

Quins still held a 15-9 lead at half-time, but Mike Catt had already shown devastating pace to unzip the visitors’ defence before Irish full-back Jim Staples covered across to save the day.

Bath supremo John Hall described the second half, in which they scored 32 points without reply, as “probably the best we’ve played all season.” And when Hall says he’s “exceptionally pleased with that performance” that’s praise indeed.

“We had a bit of a slow start, and that’s not taking anything away from Harlequins, they came out and played the rugby we known they can,” he added.

“But it was a typical Bath-Harlequins game and come the end, we were playing the best rugby we’ve played all season, against a very good side.”

The comeback was launched by the forwards, two punishing drives earning penalties for Callard who eventually levelled the scores after 54 minutes. A minute later, Bath were in front.

Redman caught the restart kick, Andy Nicol sniped and de Glanville carved into the heart of the Quins defence. Eric Peters, Andy Robinson, Callard and Graham Dawe all handled before the move was finished off by England wing Jon Sleightholme.

As the Londoners’ forward effort began to flag, Callard kicked his sixth penalty and Catt dropped a goal from 35 metres to put Bath 26-15 ahead.

With Peters now looking every inch an international No 8 and complementing the line-out work of Redman and Martin Haag effectively, Bath were really cruising. A lovely miss move allowed Jeremy Guscott to put Sleightholme away on the right after 76 minutes and de Glanville was on the inside to score.

Bath added 10 more points in injury time with an improbable dropped goal from Nicol and a try from Guscott, converted by Callard.

The scoreline did not really do justice to Quins’ contribution to a wonderful spectacle but Director of Rugby Dick Best is not one to beef. “It was interesting for us to pitch ourselves in against the best – and they are the best, by a long way,” he said.

ENTERTAINMENT – five stars

BATH FORM: irrepressible

SCORERS: 2 mins – Kitchin try, Challinor conv, nil-7; 9 mins – Callard pen, 3-7; 15 mins – Challinor try, 3-12; 21 mins – Callard pen, 6-12; 25 mins – Callard pen, 9-12, 42 mins – Challinor pen, 9-15 (H-T); 46 mins – Callard pen, 12-15; 54 mins – Callard pen, 15-15; 55 mins – Sleightholme try, 20-15; 63 mins – Callard pen, 23-15; 71 mins – Catt dropped goal, 26-15; 76 mins – de Glanville try, 31-15; 82 mins – Nicol dropped goal, 34-15; 84 mins – Guscott try, Callard conv, 41-15.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Guscott, Adebayo; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Peters, Robinson.

HARLEQUINS: Staples; O’Leary, Greenwood, Mensah, Bromley; Challinor (rep Wright, 70 mins), Kitchin; Leonard, Mitchell, Mullins, Snow, Thresher, Allison (rep Sheasby, H-T); Watson, Jenkins.

REFEREE: John Pearson (Middlesborough).

CONDITIONS: pitch – firm; weather – bright.

 

10/4/1996

v Gloucester, Away. Lost 10-16. Team:- Lumsden, Sleightholme, de Glanville (T), Catt, Adebayo, Butland (1c & 1p), Nicol, Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Clarke, Peters.  Replacements – Sanders, McCarthy, Yates, Pearce replaced Clarke  Ref – N Cousins. Ground – Slippery. Weather – The odd shower

After the Lord Mayor’s Show….Oh wow! We were awful. After last Saturday’s stunning display against Quins, today Bath disintegrated. So slow as to be unbelievable, everything that could go wrong did. Only Redman seemed to show any of his talent. Take nothing away from Gloucester, though. Fighting for their life against relegation, they put on a gutsy display and well deserved their win.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – three stars

KINGSHOLM flops Bath were left to lick their wounds last night after one of the most remarkable upsets in Courage League First Division history.

More than 10,000 fans chaired Gloucester’s muddied heroes aloft, scarcely believing the drama that unfolded during 80 passion-filled minutes.

Bath – now leaders on points difference only from Leicester – were also incredulous.

A staggeringly-inept display shocked seasoned internationals into silence, shattered an unbeaten away record and left stunned rugby supremo John Hall searching for answers.

“I have got no excuses, we just didn’t have the right attitude,” said Hall, amid a sea of straight faces.

“Gloucester were technically superior to us. They played as if their lives depended on it and we didn’t work anywhere near hard enough.”

In contrast, Gloucester played like men possessed, giving Bath old boy Richard Hill his finest hour since taking the coach’s reins last October.

“This is almost too good to be true,” beamed Hill, whose side leapfrogged fellow strugglers Bristol and Saracens following wing Paul Holford’s early try and 11 points from veteran full-back Tim Smith.

“If people had asked me which game I’d liked to have won most, then it’s Bath before a Kingsholm crowd packed to the rafters.”

His wish was granted, and not even the most one-eyed Bath supporter could complain on a night when England’s premier club came off distinctly second-best.

Gloucester never lost the lead they gained inside four minutes when scrum-half Scott Benton darted clear of Bath’s mesmerised defence to send Holford racing across.

It was almost a carbon copy of wily Benton’s Pilkington Cup semi-final try at the Rec three weeks before, yet Bath still weren’t any wiser.

That ultimately-decisive score, complemented by Smith’s touchline conversion, visibly rocked Bath into making more rash decisions than captain Phil de Glanville could comprehend.

Half-backs Andy Nicol and Richard Butland hardly put a foot right – literally in Butland’s case as he missed four kickable penalties – which spread panic through the ranks.

Bath lacked their familiar fluency and control – confidence even – and took numerous poor options in wrong areas of the pitch.

The back row, minus Steve Ojomoh, did not function. No 8 Eric Peters proved anonymous, Andy Robinson had too much on his plate, while poor Ben Clarke ended up in hospital for X-rays on an ankle.

At least Bath set-scrum parity, where Dave Hilton and John Mallett produced another power show to suggest they will be this season’s cup final props on May 4.

But Gloucester, who could even allow Tim Smith the luxury of missing five penalties, always had the bit between their teeth.

With scoring chances at a premium, the channelled aggression generated by skipper Dave Sims, plus flankers Ian Smith and Andy Stanley, more than kept them in contention.

Even when Bath’s best player, Phil de Glanville, scurried over 13 minutes from time, Gloucester toughened their resolve once again for Smith to complete his hat-trick.

Against all the odds – relegation fears and five injured players included – Gloucester held on for their first league win against Bath since 1989.

Bath must bounce back at Saracens on Saturday, when the man they missed above all others last night – Jon Callard – will surely return.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – four stars

BATH FORM: dire

SCORERS: 4 mins – Holford try, Smith conv, 7-nil; 10 mins – Smith pen, 10-nil; 23 mins – Butland pen, 10-3 (H-T); 62 mins – Smith pen, 13-3; 67 mins – de Glanville try, Butland conv, 13-10; 70 mins – Smith pen, 16-10.

GLOUCESTER: T Smith; Holford, Cummins, Roberts, Osborne; Kimber, Benton; Windo, Hawker, Bullock, Miles, Sims, Stanley, Raymond, I Smith.

BATH: Lumsden; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Catt, Adebayo; Butland, Nicol; Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Clarke (rep Pearce, 67 mins), Peters, Robinson.

REFEREE: Nick Cousins (London Soc).

CONDITIONS: weather – showery; pitch – greasy.

 

13/4/1996

v Saracens, Away. Won 21-15. Team:- Callard (1c & 3p), Sleightholme, de Glanville, Adebayo (T), Lumsden, Catt, Nicol, Hilton, Dawe (T), Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Peters.  Replacements – Harrison, French, Crompton replaced Hilton (44 mins), Pearce  Ref – S Piercy. Ground – Fast. Weather – Perfect

For the first twenty minutes, it looked as though we had shaken the blues of the Gloucester defeat out of our system. Then followed a period of pretty terrible play in which we were lucky to escape with a win against a fired up Saracens team trying to avoid relegation. Bath were saved by a masterly display by Catt. He really is better than Grayson at fly half!

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH may be stumbling rather than cruising towards their sixth Courage League championship but Mike Catt is growing in stature with every match.

Everyone is aware of his ability to cut defences to shreds when Bath are operating at full throttle. What this game proved was that Catt can also turn a game around when his forwards are struggling.

Things certainly looked grim for the league leaders when relegation-threatened Saracens staged a stirring second-half comeback to take a 15-13 lead with tries by back row men Tony Diprose and Eddie Halvey.

Bath’s line-out supply had all but dried up after half-time but a shortened line eventually produced the quick ball that Catt needed.

A deft chip over the advancing Saracens defensive line was quickly regathered and, as the cover closed in, Catt fired out a pass to Graham Dawe.

The 36-year-old hooker, given a yellow card in the first half, galloped 20 metres and also beat a man on the line to score the most important try in all his ten years at Bath.

Catt has been criticised in the past for a perceived inability to control a game from fly-half but this performance largely exploded that myth. His tactical kicking, previously a weak point, was impressive and his eye for a break undimmed.

Professionalism is something of a dirty word these days, but the England full-back’s ability and willingness to play anywhere in the back line makes him worth every penny of whatever Bath are prepared to pay him as a full-time rugby player next season.

And Catt was not prepared to blame his pack unduly for failing to subdue a Saracens eight in which England A forward Tony Diprose was outstanding.

“Our forwards have had a really hard time,” he said. “I’d like to see how Leicester are going to cope with five games in two weeks, and if they can come through unscathed.

“Mentally and physically, to keep going after three games in a week is extremely hard. But we’ve shown a bit of character again to come back and we’re still at the top.”

But it has been achieved at considerable cost. John Mallett was struggling with a knee injury from the fifth minute but it was front row partner Dave Hilton who was eventually forced off early in the second half with an ankle problem. Steve Ojomoh was another to finish the game limping.

Bath, still smarting from last Wednesday night’s defeat at Gloucester, had begun the game in determined mood and two Jon Callard penalties put them 6-nil ahead within 11 minutes.

Two more chances went begging in the next five minutes as Saracens struggled to break out of their own half. And when they did boot the ball deep into Bath territory at the end of the first quarter, it proved a costly error.

Catt caught the high ball and as his forwards drove upfield he was back in position to make a devastating break which was instantly supported by Phil de Glanville. Adedayo Adebayo, losing none of his try-poaching instincts in the enforced move from wing to centre, scampered in for the try, converted by Callard.

Saracens, having never set foot in the Bath 22 for the first half hour, never seemed to be out of it for the rest of the game. It was a lucky that home fly-half Gareth Hughes missed a succession of simple kicks.

It was 12 minutes into the second half before he finally pulled back three points while Andy Robinson was off the field having treatment for a gashed head.

Even Robinson was having difficulty galvanising the Bath pack which was under huge pressure in the line-out. The men doing the damage were ex-Wales lock Tony Copsey and No 8 Diprose, who also claimed a try from a tapped penalty after 57 minutes.

The leaders’ discipline was almost non-existent at this stage and Saracens quickly forced a free-kick and then a scrum under the posts. As the Bath scrummage disintegrated, Ireland flanker Eddie Halvey claimed the try and Hughes kicked the conversion to put the home side in front.

Fortunately, for the hundreds of travelling fans, Catt was in no mood to see the title slip away and Dawe was alert enough to seize his chance.

Jon Callard missed the conversion but Bath held on for another ten minutes before he landed an injury time penalty to clinch two more precious points.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – two stars

BATH FORM: weary

SCORERS: 7 mins – Callard pen, nil-3; 11 mins – Callard pen, nil-6; 20 mins – Adebayo try, Callard conv, nil-13 (H-T); 52 mins – G Hughes pen, 3-13; 57 mins – Diprose try, 8-13; 65 mins – Halvey try, G Hughes conv, 15-13; 69 mins – Dawe try, 15-18; 83 mins – Callard pen, 15-21.

SARACENS: P Hughes; Chesney, Ravenscroft, Dooley, Harries; G Hughes, Davies; Holmes, Botterman, Wilson, Burrow, Copsey, Halvey, Diprose, Hill.

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville, Adebayo, Lumsden; Catt, Nicol; Hilton (rep Crompton, 44 mins), Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Peters, Robinson.

REFEREE: Stuart Piercy (Yorkshire Soc.).

CONDITIONS: weather – sunny; pitch – firm.

 

20/4/1996

v Orrell, Away. Won 44-11. Team:- Callard (4c & 2p), Sleightholme (Tx2), de Glanville (T), Adebayo, Lumsden, Catt, Nicol (T), Yates, Dawe, Mallett, Haag (Tx2), Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Peters.  Replacements – Sanders, French, Hilton, Webber replaced de Glanville (48 mins) Ref – C White. Ground – Wide and good. Weather – Perfect

This was an odd game really. The first one played by Bath on a Rugby League ground (Wigan) did not prove a great success for Orrell as the crowd was a disappointing 2,600 who echoed around the big capacity stadium. However, Bath put on a fine performance, with once again Catt the outstanding player. He really is looking good at stand-off these days. de Glanville had another splendid game, as did Haag and Yates. But they all played well with the unstoppable Robinson once again proving the indispensable linkman. Only Sale to go now and we should have the Championship once again.

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

BATH begin their quest for the ultimate Grand Slam next Saturday – and England wing John Sleightholme has warned there will be no let-up.

The First Division leaders dismissed out-classed Orrell with contemptuous ease, Sleightholme’s late two-try flourish completing a thoroughly professional performance.

And that was wholly appropriate at the home of Rugby League’s premier club, even if sceptical Wigan supporters gave it a resounding thumbs down.

Central Park was an atmospheric wasteland, just one-sixth full as under 2,600 fans saw Bath take apart a team who have posed them numerous problems in the past.

But it was exactly the lift Bath needed following stale , stuttering performances against Gloucester and Saracens that questioned their title credentials.

Now they are just 80 minutes away from securing a sixth Courage League championship – rich reward for the most entertaining side in England.

“We’ve always wanted to win it at the Recreation Ground,” admitted Sleightholme, a strong candidate to succeed Jon Callard as Player of the Year.

“And we owe Sale one from last season when they beat us on our own patch. It should be a great occasion.

“But it’s by no means the finish for us, given the cup final a week later and the two games against Wigan,” he added. “We have to keep alert, stay switched on and improve from today when we operating at 85 per cent.”

Sleightholme’s scoring burst ensured that Bath maintained their 30 points league average even if Orrell made life tougher in the second half.

The Lancastrians were helped when Bath skipper Phil de Glanville limped off after tweaking a hamstring on 48 minutes.

Without him, Bath lost some of the control and direction that suffocated Orrell during a one-sided opening period which secured an unassailable 25-6 lead.

Lock Martin Haag repeated his try double of last season’s cup final while scrum-half Andy Nicol also crossed as he enjoyed a comfortable armchair ride provided by rampant Bath forwards.

Their close support work had an inexperienced Orrell pack nonplussed, especially when Steve Ojomoh drove relentlessly off rucks and mauls. Flanker Ojomoh’s form, despite niggling knee and ankle injuries, is proving a revelation.

And it has given Bath hope that facing Leicester in next week’s cup final without Ben Clarke won’t necessarily provide a terminal problem.

Ojomoh, for sure, is aware of the extra responsibility on his shoulders should ankle ligament victim Clarke miss Bath’s Twickenham hat-trick bid.

But coach Brian Ashton, who has not yet given Clarke up as a lost cause, is comforted by key men hitting top form at exactly the right time.

“The forwards’ close quarters handling was superb and Andy Robinson had an outstanding match in providing continuity,” said Ashton. “Ben may recover, he’s a top-class athlete, but it was encouraging how our forwards took the game to Orrell.”

When possession reached the backs, hyperactive Mike Catt relished the time and space afforded him by Orrell’s stretched defence. Sleightholme’s second try was due entirely to the supreme conjurer, who created a scoring chance from nothing through his pace and vision.

Orrell offered little in return, although scrum-half Austin Healey made one searing break that illustrated what an asset he will be behind Leicester’s might pack next term.

Apart from the surroundings, everything else has a resoundingly familiar feel as Bath’s fourth league and cup double looms ever closer.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – four stars

BATH FORM: commanding

SCORERS: 3 mins – Mason pen (3-nil); 8 mins – Callard pen (3-3); 19 mins – Haag try (3-8); 32 mins – Nicol try, Callard conv (3-15); 36 mins – Callard pen (3-18); 39 mins – Healey pen (6-18); 45 mins (injury time) – Haag try, Callard conv (6-25 – H-T); 46 mins – de Glanville try, Callard conv (6-32); 56 mins – Wynn try (11-32); 71 mins – Sleightholme try (11-37); 78 mins – Sleightholme try, Callard conv (11-44).

ORRELL: Mason (rep Taberner, 30 mins); Wynn, Tuigamala, Johnson (capt), Smith; Peacock, Healey; Winstanley, Scott (rep Moffatt, 72 mins), Rawlinson, Cusani, O’Neill, Huxley, Woods, Manley (rep Anglesea, 68 mins).

BATH: Callard; Sleightholme, de Glanville (rep Webber, 48 mins), Adebayo, Lumsden; Catt, Nicol; Yates, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Peters, Ojomoh.

REFEREE: Chris White (Cheltenham).

CONDITIONS: weather – dry and sunny; pitch – firm.

 

27/4/1996

v Sale, Home. Drawn 38-38. Team:- Callard (2c & 3p), Lumsden (T), Adebayo, Guscott, Sleightholme (T), Catt (T), Nicol (T), Yates, French, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Peters.  Replacements – Harrison replaced Nicol (41 mins), McCarthy, Crompton, Waters replaced Guscott (35 mins)  Ref – B Campsall. Ground – Perfect. Weather – Perfect

Wow! That was a close one. Bath started off at a cracking pace and it looked all over bar the shouting at half time. The league was ours, we thought. However, a tendency to go to sleep, disruption through injuries, and the arrival of Paul Turner in the Sale side at half time changed all that. Sale chipped away at Bath’s lead until the final score was 38-38. Thank the lord for Harlequins, who beat Leicester and so we did get the League after all. Now for the Cup!

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

NEVER can there been an afternoon of such mixed emotions – Bath players did not know whether to laugh or cry, celebrate or just drink to forget.

Eventually, they settled for a sigh of unutterable relief that a sixth Courage League title was finally theirs – and the “double” still awaits them at Twickenham next Saturday.

Five minutes from time, news of Leicester’s defeat at home to Quins had spread around the sunsoaked Recreation Ground like a bushfire. The partying began on the terraces and the Bath team, already in generous mood, dropped their guard entirely.

So, when Sale left wing Chris Yates ran in an injury time try and Rob Liley kicked the conversion to level the scores, there was a momentary sense of anti-climax.

But hordes of shirtsleeved supporters thronged on to the pitch to restore a sense of perspective to an astonishing climax to the 18-match, eight-month campaign.

Disappointment at failing to round off the season in style has to be tempered by the thought that Bath have again set the pace for the rest of the English clubs with their attacking style.

But the way they threw away a 32-12 half-time lead offered a sharp reminder that if they are to stay at the head of the pack, they must enter the professional era with an equally talented squad.

Already without the guiding influence of skipper Phil de Glanville and the experience of Graham Dawe and Ben Clarke for this match, they also lost scrum-half Andy Nicol and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott during the game.

Coach Brian Ashton watched in horror as mistakes proliferated and the defence disintegrated, conceding five tries.

“At the end of the day, the championship is over 18 games, not 40 minutes,” he said. “If it had been over those 40 minutes, we’d have been struggling against relegation.

“We thought we were home and dry at half-time. The whole team went to sleep. There were some incredible basic errors – running when we should have kicked and kicking when we should have run – the whole thing just fell apart.

“When we got ten points back in the lead I thought `Well that’s it now,’ but it wasn’t. The discipline went completely.”

The first half had gone entirely according to script as Bath ripped into the visitors, displaying all the power, panache and inventiveness that has characterised this latest championship-winning side.

It began with a Jon Callard penalty after four minutes and Sale fly-half Rob Liley fatally hit his restart kick too long, giving Bath the scrum on half-way.

Andy Nicol broke away with No 8 Eric Peters in support and the move was carried on by Andy Robinson and Callard. Sale regrouped but only managed to delay the inevitable score, Nicol nipping over from a ruck on the line.

The spiky Mike Catt created and finished off the next score, showing blistering speed off the mark and then profiting when Robinson recycled the ball from a ruck.

Although centre Jos Baxendell skipped through Guscott’s grasp to pull one back for Sale, the home side replied with an imperious try from England wing Jon Sleightholme on 28 minutes. He first blasted past David Rees and then rounded full-back Jim Mallinder with ease, making the conversion easy for Callard.

Guscott made up for his earlier lapse by slipping through a gap in familiar style but, as he delivered the scoring pass to Audley Lumsden, the England man pulled up as if shot.

That brought Bristol University’s under-21 international Fraser Waters on for his league debut. And, after flanker Dylan O’Grady, had crossed for another defiant try, Waters scored Bath’s fifth.

There were more changes at half-time, with Charlie Harrison coming on for Nicol, suffering from a twisted knee. But Sale’s replacement of Mallinder by player-coach Paul Turner, who promptly took over as fly-half, had immediate effect.

Suddenly Bath were on the back foot, chasing tantalising crossfield kicks and trying to pick up the runners profiting from Turner’s deft flicks and passes.

After Neil Ashurst pounced from a messy line-out and Baxendell grabbed a second try, the lead was cut to ten points. A Liley penalty made it 32-25 before two Callard penalties calmed Bath jitters. But two more penalties from Liley brought Sale to within score and they timed the final strike perfectly.

But Bath can console themselves with the sheer quality and consistency in the league this season, smashing all records for tries and points scored. For the record, they amassed 575 points and crossed their opponents’ line 68 times.

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – five stars

BATH FORM: Jekyll and Hyde

SCORERS: 4 mins – Callard pen (4-nil); 6 mins – Nicol try, Callard conv (10-nil); 19 mins – Catt try (15-nil); 26 mins – Baxendell try (15-5); 24 mins – Sleightholme try, Callard conv (22-5); 34 mins – Lumsden try (27-5); 37 mins – O’Grady try, Liley conv (27-12); 40 mins – Waters try (32-12, H-T); 47 mins – Ashurst try (32-17); 50 mins – Baxendell try (32-22); 56 mins – Liley pen (32-25); 62 mins – Callard pen (35-25); 64 mins – Callard pen (38-25); 67 mins – Liley pen (38-28); 69 mins – Liley pen (38-31); 81 mins – C Yates try, Liley conv (38-38).

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, Adebayo, Guscott (rep Waters, 24 mins), Sleightholme; Catt, Nicol (rep Harrison, H-T); K Yates, French, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Peters, Robinson.

SALE: Mallinder (rep Turner, H-T); Rees, Baxendell, Higginbotham, C Yates; Liley, Saverimutto; P Smith, Hewson, A Smith, Fowler, Erskine, O’Grady, Ashurst, Morris.

REFEREE: Brian Campsall (Yorkshire).

CONDITIONS: weather – hot, sunny; pitch – hard.

AS Bath tried to throw away their hard-won title in an extraordinary second half, the man who has stamped his authority and class on the season sat helpless in the stand.

Skipper Phil de Glanville, unable to take part in the finale because of a strain hamstring, could not believe what he was seeing.

“At 32-12, I thought `I’m really enjoying this.’ Then it all came unstuck,” he said. “It’s a long time since we played as poorly as that in the second half.

“Sale played very well but we really made some very bad mistakes – a lot of turnovers,” added the 27-year-old England centre.

“We ended up with a centre and scrum-half both making their league debuts and the organisation wasn’t quite there.

“But over the season we’ve played some great rugby and I’ve really enjoyed playing for Bath. That’s what it’s all about.”

Fraser Waters: “It went very well. I couldn’t believe the start. It was just like a dream. I was just trying to get involved really.

“It was an unbelievable start, getting the try. It was sad really that we had to win the championship on a draw but, it was good.

“I’m enjoying it at Bath and I’ll be looking to stay here, if possible.”

Andy Nicol: “It was a precaution really. I’ve got the cup final and the Scotland tour to think about.

“Championships are won over the whole season. Great credit to Sale. They wanted to spoil the party. It was nice to hear the result from Leicester, with five minutes to go but a shame that we didn’t win.”

Mike Catt: “We lost the title last year but we are deserved champions. Now we’ve got the cup final to think about.

“Bath have been doing it for the last 10 years or so. There’s no reason why we can’t do it again.

“We just got on the back foot, let them run at us and gave them a lot of space. They just created everything, especially when Paul Turner came on. They just played extremely well.”

Jon Callard: “I think we just went to sleep, you know. The boys would have been better off going shopping in the second half. That’s something that won’t happen again. We learn by our mistakes.

“WE didn’t consolidate our possession and play the corners as we should have. With being so many points up so early we tried to play fancy rugby and it was to our cost.

“We heard a few minutes before the end that we’d won the title and we just switched off. It’s a bit disappointing in that respect but it’s a great championship result in the end.

“We’re used coming off the back of hard seasons and if we can’t muster another 80 minutes of rugby at Twickenham then we shouldn’t be there.”

Sleightholme: “It wasn’t exactly how we’d planned it and Harlequins have done us a favour but, fair play to Sale, they came back at us in the second half. We thought all the hard work had been done in the first half.

“But all the players feel an immense sense of relief that we’ve actually done it finally.

“All the fans started cheering and it was quite obvious that Leicester had lost. It came over the Tannoy to confirm it. That probably didn’t help but at least we didn’t lose.

“We played some great rugby in the first half but then went to sleep.

“Hopefully we were just saving some energy for next week.”

Richard Mawditt: “You can’t judge any competition by one game. Certainly, the number of injuries we had in the second half just showed how important it is to have people at the very top to hold you together when it really matters.

“We hope very much that we can get this club all the financial backing it needs within the next few weeks. We are moving in a very positive way and, hopefully, we can wrap it up in a week or so.

“Monday week is D-Day for the players, as they put it and we hope that we can have it all wrapped up by then. We’ve got to keep them, obviously, it’s so important to us. We can’t compete with #150,000-200,000 whatever is being mentioned. But the players know what they’ve got here in Bath and hopefully we can keep the Bath family together.

 

4/5/1996

v Leicester, Pilkington Cup Final. Won 16-15.  Team:- Callard (1c & 2p), Lumsden, de Glanville, Adebayo, Sleightholme, Catt (1dg), Nicol, Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Robinson, Ojomoh, Peters.

Bath awarded a penalty try  Replacements – Sanders, Butland, Pearce, French, Crompton, Reed  Ref – S Lander. Ground – Excellent. Weather – Good

Well, we always said we have never seen a good game between these two teams, and here was the dull old stuff all over again. After a reasonably bright opening, Leicester were obviously never going to run it and make an open spectacle of it, and Bath seemed unable to break away from this strangle hold. This is the match that will be remembered more for the last minute penalty try and Neil Back’s push on the referee than for any class action. Still, 10 out of 10 can’t be bad!

Kevin Coughlan Match Report – Bristol Evening Post

JUST when Bath needed him most, Phil de Glanville was there – defying mental and physical exhaustion to deliver the team talk of his life.

As Leicester full-back John Liley lined up the conversion that would have ruined Bath’s perfect cup final record, de Glanville went to work.

“I told the guys we just had to stay cool, keep our discipline and get up into their half as quickly as possible,” said the skipper.

“At the same time, I was willing him to miss the kick. And when he did, I knew we could still sneak it.”

Five minutes later, Bath had completed the job – pulling off their greatest Twickenham escape amid scenes of high drama and controversy.

Referee Steve Lander, his patience stretched beyond breaking point, finally snapped and Leicester were punished by the penalty try from hell.

It was a remarkable end to a totally unremarkable match that bore all the hallmarks of a head-on meeting between England’s top sides.

Leicester, their heavyweight pack once more in steamroller mode, did everything possible to muscle Bath’s battered heroes into submission. But despite winning almost 70 per cent of possession, they couldn’t break down de Glanville & Co, whose powers of inner strength and self-belief are in the best Bath traditions.

Neither was there much sympathy for the Tigers, left to lick wounds that may require a long healing process.

“It must be very tough for Leicester but we were trying to win quick ball and they kept killing it. Time and time again the referee warned them,” said de Glanville.

Bath’s champagne-sipping Director of Rugby, John Hall, broke off his post-match celebrations to deliver a painful verbal assault on naive Leicester tactics.

“It was almost criminal that Leicester wasted that amount of possession,” said Hall, who could not watch the nerve-tingling finale and sought sanctuary in the dressing room after Leicester lock Matt Poole’s 75th minute try.

“I regard Leicester as a negative force. I don’t believe they are going in the right direction – they must look to play a more expansive game.”

Lander’s decision, for persistent infringement, left the Leicester players distraught – none more so than England flanker Back, who pushed Lander over after he blew the final whistle, and then refused to collect his losers’ memento.

Understandable frustration perhaps, but an unforgivable reaction which might yet land Back in hot water, even though he later apologised to Lander, claiming mistaken identity.

“The referee’s word is final but I disagree with that decision. I felt our defence was secure and Bath weren’t going to score,” said Leicester captain Dean Richards.

Such an unexpected conclusion threatened to mask another astonishing Bath achievement.

Their tenth Twickenham triumph, 16th major trophy in 13 seasons and fourth league and cup “double” puts them on course to harvest riches from the playing fields of Europe next season.

But Bath were the first to admit it wasn’t vintage fare against a Leicester side hell-bent on revenge following the loss of their league title.

For long periods the 75,000 sell-out final drifted aimlessly along – at best intense, at worst boring.

It lacked the cut and thrust you would expect from two teams boasting 18 full internationals and exciting moments were few and far between.

Two Jon Callard penalties and a Mike Catt dropped goal gave Bath their 9-7 interval lead, a half only lit up when outstanding Leicester prop Darren Garforth charged into enemy territory and fly-half Niall Malone crossed after some rapid recycling.

Mistakes continued apace – Callard and Liley missed seven penalties between them – and only during a 15 minute spell before half-time did Bath threaten to run riot.

Catt sniped with menacing intent, while the back row of Andy Robinson, Eric Peters and Steve Ojomoh made inroads through some powerful, surging support play.

Liley’s penalty after 43 minutes inched Leicester ahead, then tedium took over. Jon Sleightholme’s brilliant try-saving tackle on Steve Hackney and a thrilling midfield break by de Glanville were the only worthwhile offerings until those tension-filled final moments. That the match will be remembered for a penalty try just about says it all.

 

ENTERTAINMENT RATING – two stars

BATH FORM: patchy

 

SCORERS: 6 mins – Callard pen (3-nil); 9 mins – Malone try, Liley conv (3-7); 34 mins – Callard pen (6-7); 42 mins (injury time) – Catt dropped goal (9-7); 43 mins – Liley pen (9-10); 75 mins – Poole try (9-15); 80 mins – pen try, Callard conv (16-15).

BATH: Callard; Lumsden, de Glanville, Adebayo, Sleightholme; Catt, Nicol; Hilton, Dawe, Mallett, Haag, Redman, Ojomoh, Peters, Robinson.

LEICESTER: Liley; Hackney, Potter, Robinson, Underwood; Malone, Kardooni; Rowntree, Cockerill, Garforth, Johnson, Poole, Wells, Richards, Back.

REFEREE: Steve Lander (Liverpool).

CONDITIONS: weather – dry and bright; pitch – firm.

 

 

8/5/1996

v Wigan, At Manchester. Lost 6-82.

Bath took a squad of 19 to this, the first game for over 100 years between Rugby Union and Rugby League, played in this night time game at Maine Road, Manchester under League rules. And what a night it was! Predictably, Wigan – so fast and so fit – trounced Bath at their own game, although our team never gave up and won a great deal of grudging respect from the devotees of the Northern game. Invidious to single any one out – although JC scored Bath’s only try and converted it. Most, particularly, the ‘Olies,’ were out on their feet by the end, but say they are looking forward to the return match under Union rules, on 25th May at Twickenham.

Squad – Callard, Sleightholme, de Glanville, Butland, Waters, Yates, McCarthy, Robinson, Haag, Redman, Sanders, Pearce, Lumsden, Catt, Ojomoh, Vander.

 

 

 

NOT SO CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE LEAGUE KIND.

 

Some might say: “The Bath Team, a hard faced lot – loads of Internationals – seen it all – done it all.”

Well nothing could have prepared them for the ‘culture shock’ they were to encounter at Maine Road Manchester. An indelible impact in the physical sense, but also in a nicer sense, as I will explain later.

They had trained – well, to be honest, they’d had two full sessions with Welsh League Coach Clive Griffiths, and thought they were getting the hang of it following a practice match against a South Wales League side.

I think the try count was :- Welsh ‘Pros.’ 8 tries, Bath ‘Wizards’ 4 tries!

 

Upwards to Manchester, but not a flat hat in sight! Bath, both players and supporters, felt a bit strange as they arrived at the City ground, as locals cast curious eyes on these people from Union territory.

Then our hearts thumped as fireworks heralded the teams into the arena. What a reception! It was, all at once – spectacular, warm and friendly – something special, which swept aside real and imaginary barriers at one swift swoop. I remember, author/actor Colin Welland’s words were: “Thus ends a hundred years of nonsense.”

 

Rugby hacks have had their say on this cross-code encounter, but I would like to comment on the spirit in which it was played. The score reflected the obvious difference in skills under League rules, and the higher fitness levels of a professional outfit. Pitted against some of the best players in the League game, it had been hard enough to spell Va’aiga Tuigamala, let alone having to tackle him! The Bath boys simply had to learn as they went along. I hope others shared my pride and astonishment at the manner in which Bath stood up to the onslaught. They were truly ‘not with it’ for much of the first half. Despite good handling skills and at times, heroic tackling, our defence lines were all wrong and we were given a lesson in running rugby.

 

However, for all to see gradually evolving, was a revelation of team effort to keep the Bath and perhaps – the Union’s ‘end-up.’ Gradually we improved. We saw Andy Robinson getting practical tips from Shaun Edwards in the Wigan dugout, during one of Andy’s blood-bin visits. Despite the pounding that some of them were taking, it was obvious that temporary casualties were champing at the bit to get back on, and have another go. They all gave it their best shot, and we were all proud of them. There were some enlightening performances from youngsters;- Ian Sanders, Kevin Yates, Neil McCarthy, Ed Pearce and Rich Butland, and not to be outdone – Ollie Redman emerged from the subs bench to give a pretty fair imitation of a rugby league regular! It was nice to see Micky Skinner and also some other 1st Division boys there and I feel the Club did their best for them.

Our lasting memory was the generous manner, in which the Wigan fans began to warm to the Bath effort, and the R.F.U. and League bosses and dignitaries were up out of their seats – when at last, John Callard scored. Just one try – but a super moment that we will always remember. It was all marvellous, magic, and a brilliant spectacle. Born out of mutual respect, genuine friendships were established. It proved to be the precursor of many cross-code transfers, as the professional era exploded on the rugby scene.

On this occasion the winning, or in our case – the losing, truly did not matter.

 

We turned up – and ENJOYED. Peter Hall – May 1996

 

25/5/1996

v Wigan at Twickenham. Won 44-19. This was a game a 100 years in coming. Bath showed Wigan that Union was perhaps a bit more complex and demanding than they had expected and Wigan showed the Bath and Union faithful what a fit and professional outfit they were. A good day was had by all!

 

“When Rugby Union went professional, it’s history changed radically. Some would say it’s history ended and a new game emerged.”

(BBC Documentary 21-9-99) The Union Game – A Rugby History

 

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